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MAKERS OK INDIAN LITERATURE 


RADHANATH RAY 


Gopinath ^folianty 



SaMtya Akademi 




Sahitya Akademi 

Rabindra Bhavan, 35, Ferozeshah Road, New Delhi-110001 
Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, Block V-B, Calcutta-700029 
29, Eldams Road, Teynampet, Madras-600018 
172, Mumbai Marathi Grantha Sangrahalaya Marg, Dadar, Bombay-400014 


© Sahitya Akademi 

First Published : 1978 
Second Edition : 1983 


Rs.4 


PuDiisnea oy me 5>amtya AKaaejqai 
and printed at Bharti Printers, K-16, NaVeen Shahdara, Dellxi-110031 



contents 


1 . Introduction 9 

2. Life and Career 14 

3. The Writings of Radhanath Ray 30 

4 . A Critical Estimate of Radhanath’s Poetry 56 

Appendix 73 




Ackn o wledgemen t 


I am indebted to the Sahitya Akademi for sponsoring the 
writing of this monograph by me and for its publication. While 
I have depended on my own study of the writings of Radha- 
nath, I have also utilised all available material contained in 
the writings of others about him as appeared to me to be consistent 
and useful. I express my gratitude to the writers whose writings 
have been listed in the bibliography given in Appendix 3. I parti- 
cularly mention two outstanding contributions, first those by Dr. 
N. Samantaray who has brought to light little known facts about 
the career, writings and times of Radhanath, and secondly ‘Kabi 
Lipi’ by Dr. D.P. Pattanayak in which some letters written by 
Radhanath to Gangadhar Meher were compiled together, edited 
and published. The letters throw light on some of his attitudes, 
opinions and on some incidents relevant to the poet’s moods. I 
have also profited by the voluminous biography written by Sri 
D.C. Ray, son-in-law of the Poet’s eldest son Sri Sashi Bhusan 
Ray. It contains, though in a pell-mell fashion, a wealth of 
material but I could not always agree with the opinions expressed 
there. 


G.M. 




CHAPTER ONE 


Introduction 


Oriya is one of the fourteen major languages of India and is 
spoken by over twenty million people in the eastern region of 
India, known in history as Odra, Kalinga, Utkal, Tosala and 
Orissa, famous for its temples, its fine sculptures and ancient cul- 
ture. Thus, it has the temples of Jagannath at Puri, Lingaraja at 
Bhubaneswar and Konarak on the sea-beach among the thou- 
sands of temples adorning the entire area. The Oriya language 
is one of the most ancient among the Indian languages. The 
earliest extant poems in the language are those which were com- 
posed by some of the famous saints of the Vajrayana School of 
Buddhism in the 7th to 9th century A.E>. 

The British occupied Orissa in 1803 and already by then, 
Oriya poetry was rich, highly developed and profuse in quan- 
tity, stored in innumerable palm leaf mss. some of which could be 
found almost in every home. It possessed a wide variety. It had 
grown out of the Indian and the local culture. It bore the in- 
fluence of Sanskrit, and of folk traditions and it conformed to 
values that were typically Indian, expressing traditional Hindu 
beliefs and outlook on life. Radhanath Ray, born in 1848 was 
the most outstanding Oriya poet in the 19th century after the 
British conquest of Orissa. 

He came of a middle class family in the Balasore District 
from a tiny village in the sea-coast. Pie read in a high school, 
passed the F.A. Examination of the Calcutta University as a 
non-Collegiate student and then worked under the British 
Government, first as a school teacher for eight years, and then 
as a high ranking officer in the Education Department of the 
Province of Bengal. For twenty three years, he was in charge 
of directing the modern system of primary education in the 
districts of Cuttack, Purl and Balasore in Orissa and in some 



10 


RADHANATH RAY 


Garjat states which were then included in the Orissa Division 
of Bengal. That system of education had been newly introduced 
by the British Government. He was a famous educationist. Tn 
recognition of his meritorious work, the British Government 
conferred the title of ‘Rai Bahadur’ on him in 1903 (15 Septem- 
ber). He died on the 18th April, 1908. 

It was while working as an Inspecting Officer of Schools that 
he took to writing seriously in Oriya, first turning his attention 
to text-books and then to Kavyas. He composed nearly 14,000 
lines of Oriya poetry including 9 Kavyas which constituted his 
important contribution to Oriya literature. They were written 
and published during the period from 1886 to 1897. They set up 
a new tradition and influenced subsequent poets almost up to 
the middle of the 20th century. He enriched Oriya poetry by 
introducing into it new forms, new topics, a new approach and 
greater freedom. Among the many new things which he brought 
into Oriya poetry, there were a system of end-rhyming adopted 
from Bengali, blank-verse modelled on Michael Madhusudan 
Dutt’s Bengali poetry, a pictorial, musical but direct and un- 
ambiguous language, following Scott and Wordsworth, romantic 
legends concerning people and places, description of nature, 
lyrical poetry in the manner of British romanticist poets, satire 
in the manner of Dryden and Pope, denunciation of despots, 
tyrants and oppressors, concern with social problems, a spirit of 
protest against conventional morality, a disbelief in the power of 
gods and goddesses, and patriotic sentiments, which last brought 
him trouble from his employers. The new sentiments that his 
poetry expressed at once drew applause and certain aspects of 
his poetry stirred up a bitter controversy. He was viewed as a 
national poet of the first order in Orissa and was accorded 
honour and recognition that has rarely been given to any other 
writer. 

His fame came in the wake of two circumstances peculiar to 
his age. First, the country as a whole had been in utmost misery, 
backwardness and degradation as a result of the British occupa- 
tion. Dispossession of zemindaries and lands belonging to the 
people of Orissa and their exploitation by outsiders had become 
the rule, and most of the key positions under the Government 
were held by outsiders. The normal responsibilities of adminis- 
tration had been neglected, obviously with deliberate intent, so 



INTRODUCTION 


11 


that the heroic and patriotic instincts of the people of Orissa 
might never revive. The British Government had ample proof of 
the spirit of the people in the armed resistance of 1817-19, and 
also while it had to crush resistance in almost every Garjat, and 
at other sporadic intervals. To the misery thus caused had been 
added an unmitigated cycle of repeated droughts, cyclones, 
floods, and famines and severe epidemics. Nearly a million people 
died of starvation in 1866 in the districts of Cuttack, Puri and 
Balasore in, what is known as, the ‘Great Famine’. 

The country was in such a state of neglect that even roads 
were scarce and large areas were overgrown with jungle and in- 
fested with wild animals. The Calcutta-Madras rail link then non- 
existent in Orissa was thrown open only in 1900. Education had 
been utterly neglected. The Balasore High School, which was 
the third English School to be opened in Orissa and the one in 
which Radhanath read was opened only in 1853. It was only 
after 1854, on account of the recommendation made by Sir 
Charles Wood, member, Board of Control that primary educa- 
tion made some headway in Orissa. Though Christian missiona- 
ries printed the New Testament in Oriya from Serampore in 
1804 and set up a printing Press at Cuttack in 1857, the first 
public press, the Utkal Printing Company was set up in 1866. 

Another circumstance peculiar to the time of his advent was 
a strong move made by some self-seeking job-hunters from out- 
side Orissa to make the British Government to abolish the Oriya 
language in their schools and offices in the Orissa Division and 
to replace it by Bengali. The move first originated in a letter 
dated the 14th January, 1841 addressed by the Board of Revenue, 
Bengal to the Commissioner of the Orissa Division. Prior to 
that, in a circular dated 30th May, 1 837 the Government of 
Bengal had directed that the use of Persian in its offices should 
be discontinued and should be replaced by ‘the local language’, 
while English would continue as before, and that any one who 
was not familiar with the local language would be debarred from 
holding an appointment under the British Government. Natu- 
rally, people from outside Orissa who till then had occupied 
almost all posts under the British in Orissa were apprehensive 
lest they would lose their jobs and their power and influence, and 
so, in order to keep their sway over Orissa intact, they engineer- 
ed the move in 1841. Orissa had been cut up after the British 



12 


RADHANATH RAY 


occupation and portions of it had been tagged on to Bengal, to 
Central Provinces and to Madras. As was mentioned by Dr. 
Rajendra Lai Mitra before the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal 
on the 4th April, 1870, Oriya had been the language of the 
people and the language in the courts in the whole of Midna- 
pore and Bankura up to 1850, when it was deliberately suppres- 
sed and replaced by Bengali, so that, in 20 years, the change 
was finally complete. Similar hopes continued to be cherished in 
respect of the Districts of Cuttack, Puri and Balasore for which 
attempts continued. This led to much bitterness. A strong 
reaction in defence of the Oriya language was set up leading in 
course of time to the TJtkal Sammilani movement under Madhu- 
sudan Das for amalgamation of Oriya speaking tracts, and for 
the formation of a separate province. Those who wanted to 
suppress Oriya had been particularly harping on the fact that 
there were no good text-books in Oriya; in fact, preparation of 
text-books in Oriya had been neglected and discouraged by 
interested parties. The agitation to abolish Oriya was officially 
closed when a circular dated the 8th November 1869 was issued 
by the Government of Bengal. The circular said that in all 
schools of the Orissa Division, Oriya should be the medium of 
instruction. Desperate attempts were there after made by the 
agitators through the press and on the platform, they continued 
for a year or two more and finally, ceased. The struggle had 
lasted for over 28 years. 

Gouri Sankar Ray came of a Bengali family that had settled 
in Orissa for generations. He was one of the important leaders 
of the counter agitation in defence of Oriya, for that purpose 
he edited the TJtkal Dipika’. Fakirmohan Senapati who edited 
the 'Bales war Sambad Bahika* was another such leader. As is evi- 
dent from Fakirmohan’s autobiography, Radhanath’s sympathies 
were with the Oriya cause, but he did not come out in the open. 
He came of a Bengali family that had long settled in Orissa. 
Oriya and Bengali meant the same to him, and his early writings 
were poems in Bengali. It was after the language controversy 
had ended that his writings in Oriya were seen in print. The 
novelty and richness of his Oriya poems, the fame that his 
talents evoked, and the influence that he commanded as a poet, 
scholar, high ranking officer gave him a unique fame in the 
context of the twenty-eight years fight to save the Oriya langu- 



INTRODUCTION 


13 


age. It was as if the high worth of his poems vindicated the 
honour of Orissa and raised its prestige. He became a national 
hero. 

He continues even now to be the most frequently discussed 
Oriya poet. His poems are still taught in schools and colleges 
and are regarded as classics. Many poets imitated him in the 
succeeding years, many more were influenced by him in some 
form or other, and the bold experiments that he attempted in 
the language, form and content of poetry encouraged his suc- 
cessors to try newer experiments. He was the initiator of modern- 
ism in Oriya poetry and he can justly be regarded as one of the 
makers of Oriya literature. 

This is a brief monograph intended to convey a broad idea 
of the life and poetry of Radhanath Ray in a nut-shell. The 
limitations of space naturally restrict a fuller dilation on different 
aspects connected with the subject. 



CHAPTER TWO 


Life and Career 


A. Early Life: 

Radhanath Ray was born on Thursday the 28th September, 1848 
in village Kedarpur near Soro in the sea coast of Balasore in 
Orissa. His father was Sundar Narayan Ray and his mother Tarini 
Devi. 

He came of a Bengali family of the caste ‘Kayastha’ that had 
settled in Orissa for generations. The family, originally bear- 
ing the surname ‘De’ had shifted from Radhanagar in Midna- 
pore to Dasmangal in Balasore and then had settled in Kedar- 
pur where Radhanath’s grand-father Narayan Prasad De had 
married the daughter and heir of a Zemindar with a surname 
‘Ray’. 

The family owned a few acres of land at Kedarpur, but it had 
to maintain a social status, there were many mouths to feed, and 
it was not rich. It derived some income and had a status because 
some of its members had been serving under the British. Radha- 
nath’s father was a clerk in the office of the Collector, Balasore. 
The pay of clerks in those days varied from Rs. 3/- to Rs. 10/- 
a month, but rice sold at 60 seers a rupee and so a clerk could 
maintain his family. Radhanath’s uncle Balaram Prasad was 
employed for some time as an executive (‘Daroga’) under the Bri- 
tish Salt Manufacturing Company at Balasore. His uncle Jagan- 
nath Prasad also worked there for some time. But the Salt Com- 
pany was abolished in 1863 and so the two were thrown out of 
employment. Radhanath’s youngest uncle ‘Jahnabi babu’ worked 
as a petition writer in the Collector’s office and assisted the joint 
family in bread earning. 

Sundar Narayan Ray was a hard-working and frugal man, 
Radhanath was his eldest son and it was his ambition that his 
son should get an English Education and so be enabled to 



LIFE AND CAREER 


15 


secure an employment under the British Government. 

In 1853, a second son Jadunath was born to Sundar Narayan 
Ray by his first wife Tarini Devi, and then in 1854 she suddenly 
died. This was a bitter shock to Radhanath. He grew into a 
morose, quiet child and the mood hardly left him all his life. 
One characteristic of his poetry in his obsession with death, it 
dates from this early experience. He wrote a poem in Bengali 
about this incident some years later. 

Sundar Narayan Ray married Rupa Devi in the same year. 
He then put Radhanath under the care of a professional primary 
tutor named Narayan Nayak. True to the custom then prevailing, 
the teacher flogged Radhanath off and on, made him to cram his 
lessons, and kept him fully occupied in that tasteless pursuit giv- 
ing him no time to play. Nor was Sundar Narayan Ray softer in 
his dealings with his son, he did not even allow him to go out to 
play or to mix with other children. He wanted his eldest son to 
grow into a serious, purposeful man and for that purpose, to 
be well up in his studies. Radhanath had thus a miserable, love- 
less childhood. He was growing into a weak, undernourished 
and frequently ailing child, melancholy and unusually serious. 
He had an accident in 1854, the only time when he used to be 
allowed to go out of doors was when he would be taken to the 
village tank for a bath, but once, his feet slipped and he was at 
the point of drowning. He was rescued by a co-villager, Haladhar 
Sadangi. His father no more permitted him to be taken outside. 

A ‘Vernacular School’ was set up at Soro with the efforts of 
Radhanath’s father and Radhanath was admitted into that school 
in 1857. The Headmaster of the School was Basudev Nanda 
and Radhanath then read Sanskrit for the first time. 

In February 1858 Radhanath admitted into the second year 
class of the Government High School, Balasore. He then shifted 
from his village Kedarpur and put up with his father in a rented 
house at Balasore. He read in that School for six years up to 
January, 1864. Later, on 24th October, 1868, that is just before 
he appeared at the F.A. Examination, he obtained a ‘Govern- 
ment School Certificate' from the Headmaster of that High 
School. The certificate has been published in his biography 
written by Sri D.C. Ray. It mentions that he was in the highest 
class of the school when he left school in January of 1864. There- 
after, he joined the staff of the school in 1864 and was in the 



16 


RADHANATH RAY 


employment of the Government uninterruptedly till the date of 
his retirement. He must have passed the Entrance Examination 
as a non-collegiate student in 1865 or in 1866. 

Sons of some rich zemindars and high ranking officers were 
among his intimate friends in School; one such was Baikuntha 
Nath De, later Raja B.N. De, a rich zemindar of Balasore who 
remained his friend and patron throughout his life. When Radha- 
nath wrote text-books, with one or two exceptions they were 
all published by Baikuntha Nath De from his Press. His early 
literary creations were also published from that Press. 

While in school, he was cited as the best boy of the second 
year class in the Annual Report. He was mentioned as one 
of the three best boys of his class in the Annual Report 
for 1862-63 that is when he was in the class next below the 
highest. Fakirmohan Senapati’s impression of his academic acti- 
vities is that he passed the Entrance Examination in the first 
division and obtained a scholarship but Fakirmohan’s statement 
that he passed the Entrance Examination in 1864 and then joined 
the Presidency College for some time in 1864 cannot be correct. 

B. His life as a School Teacher : 

Radhanath Ray joined the staff of the Balasore High School 
as a teacher on 1st May 1864 on a salary of Rs. 30/- a month. 
He was little more than a boy and was a sickly child of skin 
and bone. He lived with his father in a rented house at Bala- 
sore as before, the place was east of the Gadgadia Tank. It 
is probable that he appeared at the Entrance Examination of 
the Calcutta University for which he had been preparing at home 
while teaching in school; no records are however available. 
About his first year as a teacher in that School, Gangadhar 
Achariya, the Headmaster wrote that he had been a little prone 
to carelessness before, but that he had improved. 

He worked in the Balasore High School till December, 1868. 
In the meanwhile ‘The Great Famine’ overtook Orissa in 1866 
and there was a stark famine in the Chilika lake islands in 1868. 
F.A. classes opened for the first time in Orissa in January, 1868, 
but Radhanath appeared at the F.A. Examination of the Calcutta 
University as a non-collegiate student in December, 1868 and 
passed the examination. 

While at Balasore, he was writing Bengali poems. His 



LIFE ANP CAREER 


17 


Bengali Kabitabali , Part I, was published in 1 868. As has been 
recorded by Fakirmohan Senapati in his autobiography, Radha- 
nath used to mix with him and with other friends secretly in the 
evenings in spite of the expressed wishes of his father; Fakir- 
mohan was then the local leader of the Oriya group in the langu- 
age controversy and so Radhanath’s father had no wish that 
his son should be seen with Fakirmohan. In 1868 Fakirmohan 
set up a committee of six including himself for the promotion of 
Oriya literature and Radhanath was one of the members. 

He was next transferred to the Puri High School. He joined 
there on 23rd December, 1868. He was at Puri till January of 
1872. He found scope at Puri to improve his knowledge of 
Sanskrit. The Puri Sanskrit School was set up in 1810, Radha- 
nath and his student and friend Madhusudan Rao both read 
Sanskrit under Pandit Harihar Das, Headmaster of that School 
who was an eminent scholar. 

The happy event of his marriage with Parasamani Devi 
daughter of Chandramohan Aditya of Remuna near Balasore 
took place in 1870 while he was a teacher at Puri. 

He was transferred to Bankura in January 1872 as Second 
Teacher in the Government High School there. The second 
volume of his Bengali poems, Kabitabali Part II was published 
in 1872. He was at Bankura till the end of June 1872 when he 
was promoted as a Deputy Inspector of Schools and his career 
as teacher ended. 

C. His life as an Officer in the Education Department : 
Radhanath Ray was promoted as Deputy Inspector of Schools, 
Balasore District in July 1872, and he worked in that post till 
November, 1877. 

It was during this period that his earliest Oriya writing, a 
translation of ‘Meghaduta’ first appeared in print. It is said that 
a portion of it had been published earlier in Fakirmohan ’s 
magazine ‘Bodhadayani’ some time between 1868 and 1871, 
but the report is not confirmed and that publication is not trace- 
able. The translation of Meghaduta appeared in full in the 
magazine ‘Utkai Darpana’ in 1 873 when that magazine was 
first published by Sri Baikuntha Nath De, from his ‘De’s Press’ 
at Balasore. It was followed by a prose translation of a foreign 
story which Radhanath named ‘Italiya Juba’ and by a long and 



18 


RADHANATH RAY 


serious essay, entitled ‘Bibeki’. The translation of ‘Meghaduta’ 
at once made him famous and the prose style of ‘Bibeki’ became 
a model for editors and essayists to follow. 

Writing text-books in Oriya seemed to hold out good pros- 
pects for earning money. Inspecting Officers under the Education 
Department had been doing so elsewhere in Bengal. Starting 
with 1876, Radhanath began to write a number of text-books. 
A list of such text books has been given in Appendix 2. They 
raised the standard of text-books in Oriya. Particularly, his 
‘Model questions on Oriya literature’ published in 1879 when 
he was already Joint Inspector of Schools for the Orissa Division, 
and which was prescribed as a text book, inculcated on teachers 
and senior students the new critical approach to literature that 
he and his friend Madhusudan Rao advocated. Madhusudan 
Rao was a lyrical poet and a famous educationist. One of the 
text-books, which the two wrote together, namely Kahitabali 
Part I, was published in 1876, it contained two poems by Radha- 
nath, namely, ‘Pabana’ which was in 85 lines and ‘Words of 
Shivaji to his soldiers’ which was in 46 lines. Those were his first 
original poems in Oriya. 

His father died in July, 1873. His eldest son Sashi Bhusan 
was born in 1876. He was promoted as Officiating Joint Inspec- 
tor of Schools, Orissa Division on 26th November, 1871. He 
then went to Cuttack, stayed there continuously till 1900 and 
made Cuttack his permanent home. The best days of his literary 
creations and literary contacts were at Cuttack. His greatest 
literary creations were produced during his stay in a rented 
house at Sheikhbazar belonging to a Zemindar of Balasore. He 
put up in that rented house for 13 years from 1880 to 1893 
when he had a fine double storeyed house built in Kaligali 
street and shifted there. 

On his transfer to Cuttack, he presided over the first half- 
yearly meeting of the ‘Utkal Sabha’ in December of 1877 and 
over its first annual meeting held in June 1878. The ‘Utkal 
Sabha’ had been organised by Gouri Sankar Ray by coalescing 
the activities of two other organisations at Cuttack and it was 
one of the first public associations set up in Cuttack which con- 
cerned itself with the interests of the Oriya people. 

His second son, Rajani Bhusan was born in 1878. A third 
volume of his Bengali Poems Lekhabali was published during 



life and Career 


19 


that year. 

The year 1879 brought him the friendship and patronage 
of his official superior, Bhudeb Mukherji, then an Inspector of 
Schools in Bengal. He was a famous Bengali writer. He had 
come to Orissa on tour. Radhanath accompanied him and the 
two discussed literature on the way. Bhudeb Mukherji was 21 
years elder than Radhanath. He loved Radhanath like his son, 
eulogised him in a Bengali magazine that he had been publish- 
ing every year, and he used to recommend him for promotion 
to the next higher post. Radhanath went to Chinsura in 1888 to 
visit Bhudeb Mukherji and was his guest for three weeks. He 
accompanied Bhudeb Mukherjee on a sight seeing tour for three 
months in 1 882, the two then went to Birbhum, Patna and Gaya. 
There were on the best of relations. Bhudeb Mukherji died in 
1898. 

Radhanath’s sister Swarnamayi married the Zamindar of 
Kaupur in 1880. In the same year, the Maharaja of Mayurbhanj 
offered to appoint him as his [Dewan, Radhanath declined the 
offer in 1881. 

His job made him to tour frequently in the interior of the 
Orissa Division. He used to be out on tour at a stretch for 
months. He thus visited several Garjat states every year and was 
often out in the hills and jungles, attending to his official duties, 
effecting contacts, studying the country, enjoying its natural 
beauty, and taking notes which he later utilised when he wrote 
his poems. His biography by Sri D.C. Ray mentions many such 
tours undertaken in different years. 

He was fond of travelling. In 1883 he went to Calcutta to see 
the International Exhibition, he was next away for 3 months 
visiting northern India, Central India and Darjeeling and he 
described his experiences in his poem, ‘Chilikah Even after he 
had retired from Government service, he often trekked out to see 
his favourite hills and jungles and to enjoy the beauties of open 
nature of which he was so fond of. An infection which he had 
caught while returning from one of his travels led to his last ill- 
ness and his death. 

The year 1886 was particularly memorable for him, for, 
during that year, he made the acquaintance of the best of his 
patrons, Maharaja Sir Basudev Sudhala Deva, ruling chief of the 
Feudatory State of Bamra, and, as he frankly admitted later in a 



20 


RADHANATH RAY 


letter published in the Maharaja’s paper ‘Sambalpur Hitaisini’ 
on 21 July, 1897, a new career as a creative writer in Oriya 
opened for him after he had received a very encouraging letter 
from Sudhala Deva and had met him in person at Deogarh. He 
had been on tour to Talcher, Bamra being outside his jurisdic- 
tion, he took casual leave for 10 days and went from Talcher to 
Deogarh where he met Sudhala Deva. Sudhala Deva did him 
honour conferring the title of ‘Kabibara’ on him and presenting 
him with a purse of Rs. 500/-. During this year, two of his Kav- 
yas, first Kedar Court and then Chandrabhaga were published 
from the printing press of Baikuntha Nath De of Balasore. Other 
Kavyas followed till 1897. Of these, he dedicated three to the 
Raja of Bamra, namely Chandrabhaga in 1886, Nandikeswari in 
1887 and Jajatikesari in 1895. He eulogised the Raja of Bamra 
in the body of some of his poems. Sudhala Deva published his 
Kavyas Nandikeswari, Usha and Parvati and later his kavya 
Jajatikesari in his magazine ‘Utkala Hitaisini. He was always 
Radhanath’s friend and guide. When the prestige of Radhanath 
as a poet as compared with that of Upendra Bhanja was involved 
in a literary controversy, Sudhala Deva and his friends and em- 
ployees supported the cause of Radhanath, and his patrons fina- 
nced the magazine ‘Bijuli’ which was run for a year in his sup- 
port. The Raja’s second son financed the publication of his 
Bengali ‘Lekhabali Part II’ in 1902. 

He had a second royal patron in the Maharaja of Mayur- 
bhanj. It appears that when a particular instalment of his poem 
‘Parvati’ that was being serialised in the Bamra Raja’s magazine 
was printed in September, 1890, Sudhala Deva felt deeply shock- 
ed and outraged, for that instalment had contained a story of 
incest and murder, and the foul-deed had been attributed to a 
King of the Ganga dynasty from whom the Raja of Bamra 
claimed descent. Further serialisation was stopped under orders 
of the Raja for a period of 5 weeks though it was later resumed 
in December, 1890. After this happened, Radhanath turned to 
the Maharaja of Mayurbhanj and presented him with a copy of 
‘Parvati’. The Maharaja expressed his admiration for that poem 
and Radhanath then had his ‘Chilika’ and his ‘Mahajatra’ pub- 
lished in the Mayurbhanj Maharaja’s magazine TJtkal Prabha’. 
The Maharaja gave him a reward of Rs. 100/- for each of those 
fine Kavyas. But he had given the same amount of reward to 



LIFE AND CAREER 


21 


another poet, Gobinda Chandra Mohapatra, who was also his 
Assistant Dewan, for the latter’s poem ‘Himachala’. This shock- 
ed Radhanath and was partly responsible for killing his incentive 
to write any more serious Kavyas. As he wrote to Gangadhar 
Meher on 10.7.1894 about the affair, 

“ ‘Hira’ (i.e. diamond) and Mira’ (i.e. cumin-seed) have been 
given the same price.” 

He had somehow hoped, as he wrote to Meher on 18.3.1895, 
that the Maharaja of Mayurbhanj would play the role of the 
bounteous king Vikramaditya towards Oriya poets but his hopes 
did not materialise. He grew embittered against all ruling chiefs 
of Orissa. He wrote to Meher on 18.3.1895, “The Raja of Bamra 
deserves praise but whatever he has done is but too little.” In the 
same letter he declared that he had given up writing because of 
sickness in his family, pressure of work and lack of appreciation 
of his writings by the country. He was more explicit in his letter 
to Meher dated 27.3.1895, where he said that in India, which 
was under a foreign rule, poetry did not bring any financial re- 
ward for the writer as it did in Europe, instead it subjected him 
to enmity and to jealousy. He added: 

“It is idle to waste time in a pursuit 
that has no reward, material nor spiritual.” 

Radhanath had dedicated his ‘Usha’ to the Raja of Talcher in 
1888 and his ‘Chilika’ to the Maharaja of Mayurbhanj in 1892. 
He eulogised the Maharaja and his wife. Queen Soudamini in 
euphemistic terms at the end of his poem, ‘Chilika’, the eulogy 
forming a part of the poem. He devoted 89 lines of eulogy to 
the Maharaja in the 5th canto of his Kavya ‘Mahajatra’. But 
that was before he had felt disillusioned with the Maharaja. After 
that, he criticised the Rajas trenchantly in his satire ‘Darabara’. 
In spite of his eulogies to some of them, it appears that he had 
hated them as a class, and the pictures that he had drawn of 
them and of their women-folk in his poems were not edifying. 
The Rajas and Zemindars, however, continued to patronise him 
and his eldest son Sashibhusan Ray. On 16.5.1892, the Raja of 
Athamalik addressed a letter to him saying that he would give 
him a reward of Rs. 300/- for his ‘Mahajatra’ and in the same 
year, the Raja of Darpan gave him a reward of Rs. 200/- for 
that book. His complete works were published in 1902 at the 
expense of the Raja of Khariar and after his death, his biography 



22 


RADHANATH RAY 


(Royal, pp 1207) written by Sri Durga Charan Ray was publish- 
ed in 1941 at the expense of the Raja of Athgarh. 

His writings brought him wide renown. Besides their intrinsic 
worth, several other factors helped their quick popularity. One 
was the context of the language controversy that had recently 
ended, and which had generated, as a reaction, a strong Oriya 
nationalism. Another was his friendship with Rajas, Zemindars 
and other elite who mattered in those days. A third was the 
influence that he enjoyed as head of the Education Department 
in the Orissa Division with thousands of teachers, scholars, and 
other officers under him as his subordinates and official authority. 
Writers, editors and scholars crowded round him and he was 
looked upon as the leader of literary activities in Orissa. 

His plan to write text-books begun in 1876 continued till 
1886, they were written by him singly or in collaboration with 
others. The period from 1886-97 was that of the publication of 
his Kavyas. His last text-book ‘Vyakarana Prabesha’ was pub- 
lished in 1899. Some text-books written by other people known 
to him mentioned that he had revised them. 

Bitter Days, Trouble over Text-books: 

Almost all the text-books written by him were published by the 
De’s Press, Balasore belonging to Baikuntha Nath De. He had a 
big say in the approval of books as prescribed text-books as he 
was then Joint Inspector of Schools, Orissa. Where-ever the 
Headmaster of a Primary School had the option to choose one 
out of more than one prescribed text books, it was natural that 
a text-book which the Joint Inspector favoured or had himself 
written was more likely to be preferred. In course of time a 
scandal arose about his connection with text-books, and charges 
were made openly in the press that he backed the De’s Press 
and favoured his friends. He desisted from writing text-books, 
A complaint was filed against him by Sri Gobinda Chandra 
Ratha, a famous text-book writer of the time, before his autho- 
rities alleging nepotism and favouritism on his part, it was en- 
quired into in 1890 by Brahma Mohan Malfik, Inspector of 
Schools, and was dismissed as baseless. 

He was promoted as acting Inspector of Schools, Orissa 
Division on 21.6.1892 when that post was created for the first 
time. 



LIFE AND CAREER 


23 


Trouble regarding his poems: 

‘ Bijuli- Indradhanu controversy’ 

His connection with text-books had made enemies for him. A 
section of the educated people of Orissa resented the themes of 
his Kavyas though they admired his style and his poetic worth. 
They thought that he had offended good taste, morality and accep- 
ted values of conduct and had calumnised the national tradition 
of Orissa. In 1893 his supporters tried to establish through the 
press that he was superior to Upendra Bhanja as a poet and at 
once there arose a bitter literary controversy descending to the 
level of lampoons and degrading personal attacks. Those who 
backed Upendra Bhanja started a magazine named Tndra-Dhanu’ 
and those who held up Radhanath started a magazine named 
‘Bijuli’. The latter stopped publication early in 1894, while 
Tndra-Dhanu’ continued for more than a year thereafter. Radha- 
nath was subjected to ridicule, infamy and mortification as a 
result of this untoward happening. 

Charge of sedition: 

His worries had not ended. On 22.6.1897, the title of ‘Rai 
Bahadur’ had been conferred on him and he had received many 
felicitations. But two years later, in July, 1899 he received a 
communication from the authorities calling for his explanation 
because one of his subordinates had secretly reported to them 
against him, asserting that his poem ‘Words of Sivaji to his 
Soldiers' and 57 lines at the end of the 5th canto of his poem 
‘Mahajatra’ preached sedition against the British Government. 
This subordinate had acted in revenge for he expected a promo- 
tion at the hands of Radhanath but had been passed over and 
some one else had been promoted instead. Radhanath was in 
serious anxiety, all the while trying to prove his innocence to 
the charge of sedition. Sri D.C. Ray records in his biography 
that in exasperation, he tore up five more cantos of ‘Mahajatra’ 
that he had composed and which were ready for the press, and 
that he had also prepared an outline for writing 1 8 more cantos 
of ‘Mahajatra’ which he then shredded and consigned to the 
flame. The charges for alleged sedition were dropped at the end 
of 1899, but early in January 1900 he was called to attend a 
meeting at Calcutta where he was served with an order trans- 
ferring him to the Burdwan Division. He was made to join his 



24 


RADHANATH RAY 


new post at Hooghly as Inspector of Schools, Burdwan Division 
without being allowed time to go back to Cuttack. 

Appreciation of his Official Work: 

His work as Deputy-Inspector of Schools, Balasore, and as Joint 
Inspector of Schools, and then as acting Inspector of Schools, 
Orissa Division, was highly praised by his superior Officers and 
so too his work in the Burdwan Division. Several appreciations 
have been recorded by Sri D.C. Ray in his biography. 

His Education Policy: 

His biography reproduces some of the notes of inspection 
prepared by him. They show that his inspections were thorough 
and constructive. He embodied in them elaborate instructions 
on how to remove the defects that he observed. He mixed freely 
with teachers. He even took primary classes in order to demon- 
strate how a teacher should do his job. He personally trained 
the teachers and so built up the machinery that would imple- 
ment his instructions. 

He formulated a new approach to education. Children were 
to be taught not merely to remember new information but what 
is more important, how to exercise their own powers of obser- 
vation, reasoning, discrimination and judgment. Interest was 
to be stimulated in them for understanding their environment. 
They were to be taught how to spot out points of similarity 
and dissimilarity in different objects and concepts, to group 
things into classes, and to study the relations of different compo- 
nents to each other in a structure and also to study a structure 
as a whole. His approach to teaching was clearly demonstrated 
in his book ‘Model Questions on Literature'. Among other 
things, the book laid emphasis on a proper understanding of 
grammar, its correct application, on a detailed analysis of struc- 
ture of words and sentences, on acquiring a sound knowledge 
of metre, prosody, metaphors and also on the appreciation of 
the spirit of a poem. A student was required to be made familiar 
with new methods of composing verse such as end-rhyming, 
‘Upadha’ rhyming, and new metres. Interest was sought to be 
roused in the student for knowing about the life of a poet and 
relating it to his poetry, for effecting comparisons between 
different poets, different poems by the same poet, and different 



LIFE AND CAREER 


25 


portions of the same poem. Emphasis was laid on undertaking a 
discriminating study of a poet’s technique, his imagination, 
feelings and emotions and of the manner in which he had creat- 
ed beauty. These methods of study were new. Radhanath not 
only wrote new poetry, but in generations of the students, he 
fostered a new and critical approach to the understanding of 
literature. 

Hooghly: 

His fame as a writer and as a famous educationist continued to 
spread while he worked at Hooghly. He made many friends. 
Among them were Sri Jaladhar Sen, editor of the Bengali 
magazine ‘Bharat-Varsha’, Sri Sisirkumar Ghosh, founder of the 
Amrita Bazar Patrika, Mahamahopadhyaya Hara Prasad Sastri, 
and others. It is significant that even while he was in Bengal, he 
tried to make other people interested in the Oriya language and 
literature and he discussed Oriya literature with others fre- 
quently. At least, two young people, one Sri Akhil Palit, a Police 
Inspector, and a young lady writer, Nagendrabala Saraswati 
became sufficiently interested in Oriya so as to learn how to 
read it and they could appreciate Oriya Poetry. 

Nagendrabala: 

He had contumacious relations with young Nagendrabala and 
she was an accomplished girl nearly thirty years his junior in 
age. Their relations began in July or August of 1901, and lasted 
for two years so long as he was at Hooghly. Both of them kept 
it a secret and to all appearances she was his ‘disciple’. She 
regarded his wife as her mother and even paid her a visit at 
Cuttack. She was a married woman and as she suffered from 
some incurable disease, she had been moving from place to place 
for a change. She was a fine lyrical poet in Bengali and had 
published a number of books of poems, Radhanath wrote pre- 
faces to some of her books and praised her warmly. After she 
died in April or May of 1906, Radhanath was terribly upset, he 
was filled with a consciousness of sin, felt guilty, repented his 
action, and nearly went off his head. 

He retired from Government service on 15.9.1903. 



26 


RADHANATH RAY 


D. His last Years: 

Radhanath came back to Cuttack after his retirement and lived 
there. He left frustrated because he had been made to retire in 
the usual course on completion of 55 years of age like anybody 
else and not been granted extension of service, and had not been 
promoted to the Class I of the Bengal Educational Service. 

He had made no important contribution to Oriya literature 
after 1897, he wrote several poems of minor importance, his 
powers had failed. His losses were more than counter-balanced 
by the high esteem that he enjoyed in Orissa as a writer. On 
24.12. 1903 he presided over the first annual conference of the 
Utkal Sahitya Samaj and on the following day, he participated 
in the Utkal Sammilani Conference where he moved a resolu- 
tion for promotion of the Oriya language on which he read a 
paper. 

He went to Manjusa in January of 1904 and was there from 
the 12th to the 23rd of January waiting for arrangements to be 
made by the Raja so that he could be taken to the Mahendragiri 
mountain. No arrangement could be made and he came back to 
Cuttack. 

Bhudeb Mukherji had died in 1898 and in February 1904 he 
had another irreparable loss when Raja Sudhala Deva died. He 
had suffered from ailments all his life and his health was break- 
ing down. He went to Calcutta on 6.7.1905 in order to attend a 
meeting of a ‘Committee on Primary Education’ of which the 
Government had appointed him as a member. In the first half 
of 1906 he was on the verge of a breakdown, he requested 
Fakirmohan Senapati to get his horoscope read by a competent 
astrologer. Fakirmohan had that done, he wrote a touching 
reply to Radhanath assuring him that his worst times were 
over. 

Suddenly, in 1907, he felt excruciating pangs of remorse 
when he was reminded of his contumacious relations with 
Nagendrabala. He hated himself, hated and denounced her, 
though he did not divulge her name, raved, wept, grew restless, 
had no sleep and no appetite, felt pain all over the body, and 
passed days in agony. He then decided to make a public ex- 
posure of his guilt without disclosing the identity of the lady. 
He did so by several means. He published and circulated a 
written confession entitled ‘An appeal’ in Oriva. He addr^i^H <* 



LIFE AND CAREER 


27 


confessional letter to the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. He 
published two confessional poems one of which was addressed 
to his wife. He began to write out a detailed confession, portions 
of which were later published in his biography written by Sri 

D. C. Ray. 

His ‘Appeal’ caused a stir. Letters poured in praising him for 
his moral courage in boldly making a public confession of his 
sin. In the estimation of some people, his action indicated that 
in an age when several people in high circles lived secretly sinful 
lives, he had lived an incorruptible life, had sinned but once, 
and then had purged himself by his confession. Prayers were 
offered for him by Rev. A.H. Young and Rev. Raj Mohan Bose 
in his house on that occasion. Finally, he regained his mental 
balance. 

A few months later, on 19.1.1908, Radhanath went out with 
his son Sashi Bhusan to visit old places and friends. He went to 
Pallahara and to Bamra and was well-received by the Rajas. On 
his way back, he was coming in a bullock cart in order to catch 
train at Meramundali so as to come to Cuttack, when he had 
blood dysentery while he was at Govindpur. He reached Cuttack 
in that plight on 7.4.1904. He had fever two or three days later 
and lay bed-ridden and he died at 1 A.M. on 18th April, 1904. 

His body was cremated at Sati Choura, Cuttack where a 
‘Samadhi’ memorial constructed by a gift from Madhusudan 
Das, the then political leader of Orissa still stands. His death 
was universally mourned and his birth and death anniversaries 
are obsex-ved throughout Orissa every year. 

He was survived by his wife and three sons. 

E. Radhanath Ray in retrospect: 

THE FACTS of his life show at a glance that it was the life 
of a remarkable man, determined to make his way forward 
against heavy odds by will-power, intelligence, foresight, plan- 
ning and hard work. It was a long way from the insignificant 
hamlet Kedarpur on the sea coast, and from a common lower 
middle class family that he had travelled in those dark and diffi- 
cult days. Of success he had ample. 

His formal education had been interrupted while he was 
sixteen, but he was known to be one of the most well-read men 
of his time, a rare scholar in English, Sanskrit, Oriya, Bengali 



28 


RADHANATH RAY 


and Hindi. He was a ‘teacher of teachers’ and he brought up 
generations of students and scholars by the knowledge imparted 
by the books that he wrote, and by the policy of education that 
he formulated and implemented in Orissa. 

He achieved great success as a writer and occupied an im- 
mortal place in Oriya literature. 

He was always a success as a government servant, starting 
life as a third teacher in a High School, he rose to the highest 
status in Orissa under the Education Department. As a man of 
the world too, he was a success, he acquired rank, prestige, 
wealth and power and moved in the highest circles and thousands 
of people cringed before him to obtain his favours. Even his 
recommendations were fruitful, they advanced their fortunes in 
British India and in the Garjat States. 

With all this, he was proverbially meek, polite and unassum- 
ing. tie was simple in his standard of living, was averse to 
luxury, wore modest clothes, ate a very sparse diet, worked 
very hard, never sparing himself, and moved on foot in the 
streets of Cuttack with common crowds. He was austere in his 
habits and pleasant in his manners. 

The curse of his life was his chronic ill-health. He suffered 
all his life from colitis, colic, asthma and other troubles. He 
took to opium to allay his suffering. He often sat on the floor 
on a mat instead of sitting in a chair. The posture in which he 
sat was the Yogic posture of ‘Virasana’, knees pressed to the 
ground and the bottom resting on upraised toes because there 
was a belief that, that Yogic posture would give him some relief 
from his pains. He was man of skin and bone with piercing eyes 
blazing from hollows. It is strange how in spite of such ill- 
health he could work so hard. 

Among the good habits that he rigidly practised were prompt- 
ness, punctuality and diligence and his characteristic was since- 
rity. His letters to his friends, particularly to poet Gangadhar 
Meher show him as an unsuspecting, easily believing, open and 
warmhearted friend, eager to assist others. It was far from his 
nature to sing his own praises, to project himself by any means 
other than sterling worth, and even when maligned, to write 
anything in self-defence. He was shy in several respects, he was 
not even a platform speaker and he was particularly reticent 
about himself. He was very generous in his appreciation of the 



LIFE AND CAREER 


29 


merits of others. His collections of Bengali poems contained 
poems eulogising some eminent Oriya poets and some eminent 
men of Orissa. His Kavya ‘Chilika' contains a warm tribute to 
the genius of poet Kavi Surjya. He warmly praised the poems 
of Gangadhar Meher. His ‘Mahajatra’ contains moving lines of 
sympathy for Samanta Chandra Sekhara (Born 1835) a great 
astronomer and an eminent Sanskrit scholar of Orissa who was 
then in distress. 

He had innumerable friends and admirers. They came of 
different races, languages, religions and castes. Among them 
were Brahmin Pandits, Christian Padres, Muslims, Europeans, 
Oriyas, Bengalis, Rajas, high ranking officers and common 
people. He was above parochialism and above all distinctions of 
language, caste and creed. What he cared for was worth and 
what guided him was reason and not blind sentiment. In him- 
self, he combined both the Oriya and the Bengali, he was a 
Bengali by birth, he loved Oriya literature and devoted himself 
to it. He had a broad human sympathy and an all-India outlook 
not restricted by local patriotism. His open-mindedness was 
partly due to the influence of the Brahmo Samaj which had been 
set up at Cuttack in 1869. Two of his intimate friends Madhu- 
sudan Rao and Pyarimohan Achariya were Brahmos. Viswanath 
Kar, Editor of the Utkal Sahitya and an ardent admirer of 
Radhanath was another Brahmo. The Brahmo Samaj had a 
strong influence on the rising generation of those days. 

The times when he lived saw the emergence of Oriya nationa- 
lism and the Utkal Sammilani movement headed by Madhu- 
sudan Das. It was a period of national awakening when 
mediaeval stupor gave place to a modern awareness of needs, 
problems and objectives. In the context of that consciousness, 
Radhanath’s writings, enriching Oriya literature and enshrining 
the names and descriptions of places in Orissa in poetry were a 
matter of pride for Orissa. It was very significant that the open- 
ing song of the first Utkal Sammilani Conference held at Cuttack 
in December 1903 was a Sanskrit poem composed by Radha- 
nath beginning “Sarbesham no janani Bharata”. 



CHAPTER THREE 


The Writings of Radhanath Ray 


The writings of Radhanath can be broadly grouped as follows: 

1. Poems in Bengali, 

2. Text Books in Oriya, 

3. Translations in Oriya in verse, 

4. Prose writings in Oriya, 

5. Minor poems in Oriya, and 

6. Kavyas in Oriya. 

Lists of his writings have been given in the Appendix. 

Hrs Bengali Poems: 

His poems in Bengali were his earliest compositions. They 
were also continued at times in his later years while he used to 
write mainly in Oriya. Three such anthologies are known to have 
been published, namely, Kabitabali Part I (1868), Kabitabali 
Part II (1878) and Lekhabali (1902). He translated some Sanskrit 
poems of Kalidasa into Bengali and those were published toge- 
ther as ‘Kalidas Suktayah’ (1902), Bengalis domiciled in Orissa 
for generations often speak a dialect of Oriya called ‘Kera’ which 
is a mixture of Oriya and Bengali, but, as his letters printed in 
Sri D.C. Ray’s biography indicate, Radhanath used to write to 
his son in Bengali. His Bengali poems have a natural ease, spon- 
taneity and freshness which one somehow misses in his more 
sophisticated, laboured and refined Oriya poems. He was influ- 
enced by Bengali poets, particularly by Michael Madhusudan 
Dutt whose ‘Meghnad Badh’ was published in 1861. He later 
wrote to poet Gangadhar Meher that his Bengali poems had 
been highly acclaimed by Bengali authors, writers, critics an d 
editors, but it does not seem that those had a place in Bengali 
literature at any time. Nabin Chandra Sen, the famous poet of 
‘Palasir Juddha' was a contemporary of Radhanath. 



THE WRITINGS OF RADHANATH RAY 


31 


Text-books: 

The text-books which he wrote in Oriya about which men- 
tion has been made before were a valuable asset to the cause of 
primary education in Orissa, it is a pity that he did not write 
more of them. 

Translations: 

He began his career as an Oriya poet with his translation of 
Kalidasa’s ‘Meghaduta’, it was published in 1873. It is in simple 
Oriya and reads like an original composition. It was a characte- 
ristic with him to which he owed much of his success that when 
he translated passages, borrowed plots, descriptions and ideas 
he could put them in his own words in Oriya in a manner so 
that they looked like his own original compositions. Often, his 
readers were enamoured of passages in his poetry which were 
only Oriya renderings of what other poets had written in Sans- 
krit or in English. Another translation which appeared like an 
original composition was his poem ‘T ulasi Stabaka’ published in 
1 894 by the time when he had written most of his Kavyas. It 
was an Oriya rendering of some lines from the ‘Kiskindhya 
Kanda' of the celebrated ‘Ramacharit Manas’ of Tulasi Das, 
except what the name indicated, and it meant on the face of it, 
‘A bunch of leaves of the holy Tulsi Plant’, Radhanath gave no 
indication of the source of the poem and many people mistook 
it for an original composition. 

Prose Writings: 

After his 'Meghaduta' was published, two prose-pieces were 
published by Radhanath in the same year, 1873, and in the same 
magazine, ‘Utkal Darpana’. The first was Ttaliya Juba’, a prose 
translation of a foreign story; the name of the original was not 
revealed. The story is only of academic interest because it had 
appeared within 20 years of the beginning of modem Oriya prose 
style. The modern Oriya prose style had first appeared in the 
text books written by Gobinda Chandra Ratha, author of the 
first Oriya primer, ‘Barna-bodhaka’ ( 1854 ), Bichhanda Charana 
Pattanayaka, Kapileswara Vidyabhusana and others. The Oriya 
prose style in text books like ‘Padartha Vidya Sara* ( 1832 ) and 
etc. compiled before by Christian missionaries was incorrect 
ungrammatical, grotesque and comic. The style of Radhanath’ s 



32 


radhanath ray 


story was an uneven admixture of Sanskrit and colloquial words. 
But his second prose piece, a long essay, ‘Bibeki’ was different. 
Its prose style is a land-mark in the history of Oriya prose, being 
clear, concise, direct, and purposeful, though at times it is heavy 
with condensed Sanskrit words of compact meaning. It offers 
advice to people on how to face various adverse situations with 
wisdom, courage and fortitude. 

Further samples of his prose are provided by the following: 

(a) 48 letters written by him to Gangadhar Meher during 
the period from 1892 to 1905. They were compiled and 
edited by Dr. Debi Prasanna Pattanayak in his book 
‘Kabi Lipi’ published in 1951 by Visvabharati. 

(b) Description by Radhanath of his journey to Talcher, 
Bamra, Pal Lahara and Keonjhar published in the 
magazine ‘Naba Sambada’ in 1887, an article on ‘Bamara’ 
published in that magazine in 1896, and a brief address 
read before the first annual conference of the Utkal 
Sahitya Samaj in December, 1903. 

(c) Letters purporting to have been written by him to others 
and given in D.C. Ray’s ‘biography’. No originals nor 
facsimiles are available. 

(d) A portion of his unpublished autobiography given at 
pages 466-473 of D.C. Ray’s ‘biography’, and an ‘appeal’ 
said to have been sent by him to the press, published at 
pages 473-478 of the same book. Neither the originals 
nor facsimiles are available. The texts have not been 
authenticated . 

(e) Some prose pieces said to have been written by Radha- 
nath and published in his ‘Granthavali’ after his death 
by his son. Their genuineness has yet to be established 
by independent corroboration. These include a complete 
write-up in prose of the rest of the story in each of his 
poems ‘Parbati’ and ‘Urbasi’ from the stage where the 
poems had been left incomplete. They also include 
scrappy notes said to have been found in a ‘note book’ 
maintained by him. 

It would be safe to base one’s idea of Radhanath’s prose on 
the. prose pieces in the first three items mentioned above. 



THE WRITINGS OF RADHANATH RAY 


33 


His prose style matured with the years. It had all the charac- 
teristics of good prose, namely, brevity, accuracy, compactness 
and force. Unlike his poetic style which was often verbose, his 
prose style was condensed and pithy, conveying much more 
than what would appear on the surface. It had a pictorial 
quality. When used for the purpose of pressing a point, it was 
very persuasive. Unfortunately, he did not write much prose, 
and so, when he is mentioned as a writer, it is only as a poet. 

Minor Poems: 

Including his two translations, ‘Meghaduta’ (1873) and ‘Tulasi 
Stabaka’ (1894), Radhanath wrote 23 minor poems. His first 
original poems were two poems published in an anthology 
‘Kabitabali’ Part I in 1876, in which, the other poems were by 
Madhusudan Rao. The book was prescribed as a text book. His 
two poems were ‘Pabana’, consisting of 35 lines written in a 
simple, elegant and musical style and ‘Words of Sivaji to his 
Soldiers’ consisting of 45 lines and being the first poem written 
in Oriya conveying an appeal of Indian nationalism and also the 
first dealing with a historical figure of all-India stature. Both 
these eai-ly poems exhibited characteristics that were to figure in 
his poetry in general. Thus, both showed the influence of English 
and Sanskrit poets, and both had the ‘Upadha Milan’ pattern of 
end-rhyming as was found in Bengali. 

There was an interval of ten years before any other poem 
written by him was published. Then in 1886 another anthology 
containing two poems by Radhanath and some other poems by 
Madhusudan Rao was published and was prescribed as a text- 
book. His two poems were ‘Beni Samhara’ and ‘Bharat Iswari’, 
The latter was a panegyric to Queen Victoria, yet a tone of 
nationalism was clearly discernible in it as it contained a prayer 
to God to make the Indians united and strong. 

‘Beni Samhara’ was a long poem in 528 lines of 14 letters 
in each line and was nearly one and a half times as long as 
his two early Kavyas ‘Kedar Gouri’ and ‘Chandrabhaga’ taken 
together, but all it did was to rewrite an episode described in 
the Mahabharata of Sarala Dasa. Its importance lay in the fact 
that for the first time in history an attempt was made to modify 
and modernise Old Oriya the language and the rhyme of 
that great ancient masterpiece and Radhanath’s manner of re- 



34 


RADHANATH RAY 


wri tin g it was copied and followed thirty-two years later by 
pundits engaged by Arunodaya Press of Cuttack who prepared 
a ‘revised’ version of the palm leaf MS of Sarala Dasa’s ‘Maha- 
bharata’, printed in 1919. Radhanath abandoned the ‘Dandi 
Brutla’ rhyme of the original text in which the lines were of 
unequal length and rhythm had been maintained internally, 
corresponding to the ebb and flow of natural emotions according 
to the meaning, the music in Sarala Dasa’s ‘Dandi brutta’ had 
imitated the sound of breakers beating on the sea-shore. The 
‘Dandi Brutta’ had been a unique contribution to Oriya poetry 
by Sarala Dasa who flourished in the 10th Century (and not in 
the 15th as is erroneously believed) and it had also been followed 
by subsequent poets. Radhanath also gave up the rich, sugges- 
tive, apt and accurate colloquial Oriya style that Sarala Dasa had 
used and replaced it by Sanskrit words. It was characteristic of 
the poetry of Radhanath in general that while he initiated change 
and innovations, he did away with much that was rich and lively 
in the local tradition, and as the popularity of his poems grew, 
much of the richness and grandeur of traditional Oriya poetry 
went out of vogue and was discarded. 

Radhanath continued to make similar attempts to retell 
stories from the Mahabharata of Sarala Dasa in his later years 
in a similar manner. ‘Bana Harana’ (1904), ‘Duryadhanara Rakta 
Nadi Santarana’ and ‘Smasana Drusya’ are examples. They were 
products of the years of his failing powers, the result was a loose 
narration with weak poetic quality. Most of the minor poems 
are of the same, poor quality and they were composed after his 
last Kavya ‘Darabar’ had been published in 1 897. 

He had produced his best blank verse in his Kavya ‘Maha- 
jatra’ before 1897. He turned to blank verse again in his ‘Dasa- 
ratha Biyoga’ which he composed perhaps at the end of 1900. 
All that is known is that he dedicated it in February, 1901. But 
its language was weak, diffuse, and ineffective and its content 
was sentimental and poor in quality. ‘Savitri Charita’ published 
in 1904 was no better as blank verse, its only redeeming feature 
was an attempt, made in a few of the lines of that long poem of 
766 lines, to write poetry modelled on the style of the Oriya 
‘Bhagavata’ of Jagannatha Dasa. 

Another instance of the decay of his talent is in an incom- 
plete poem ‘Mahendragiri’ written in 1904 in which an attempt 



THE WRITINGS OF RADHANATH RAY 


35 


was made to describe natural scenes as he had done earlier in 
his famous Kavyas ‘Chilika’ and ‘Mahajatra’, he simply could 
not regain his former stature and the poem was poor in quality. 

He continued to write his minor poems almost till his last 
days. But they rarely bespeak of his characteristic talent. All that 
they evince is that he had a genuine love for writing poetry. 
Even when he was in great mental agony because of a sudden 
guilt-consciousness, he poured out his self-condemnation and 
bitter anguish in two poems. 

Among his minor poems are two unfinished ones, ‘Urbasi’ 
and ‘Fularani’, which, if completed, might have classed among 
his masterpieces. It is probable that they were composed during 
the years of the efflorescence of his talent as a romantic poet, 
that is between 1886 and 1894. In ‘Urbasi’, his poetic style 
is found at its best. He avoided the use of heavy, Sanskritic 
expressions which he had frequently used in most of his Kavyas 
and, instead, used simple, soft, natural and suggestive words 
with which the most remarkable patches and in fact the rarest 
lines of good poetry occurring in his Kavyas had been written. 
For instance, while describing the early touch of the spring he 
wrote: “The lotus, afraid of the mist, is unwilling to raise its face 
from the water”. ‘Urbasi’ was discontinued after 190 lines. 
‘Fularani’ was probably composed after ‘Mahajatra’, it represents 
a further maturity of his blank-verse, but it suffers from under- 
expresssion. It stopped after 100 lines. 

Kavyas: Their Contents: 

The crowning event of Radhanath’s literary career and the 
one for which he is remembered is his role as a writer of imagi- 
native Kavya poems in Oriya. These began with the publication 
in 1886 of his ‘Kedar Gouri’, a poem in 106 lines of 20 letters 
each, and ended with the publication of his ‘Darabara’ in 1897. 
He wrote 9 Kavyas. Of these, Parbati (1890) and Mahajatra 
(1893) were left incomplete. In three of them, there is no conti- 
nuous story. ‘Chilika’ (1891) contains a description of natural 
scenes in and around a lake in Orissa bearing that name. ‘Maha- 
jatra’ (1893) contains word pictures of natural scenes, some 
character portraits, and dissertations on the causes of the moral 
degradation of India leading to its loss of freedom. ‘Darabara’ 
is a satire containing several satirical portraits, denunciation and 



36 


RADHANATH RAY 


some personal sentiments. No such themes had ever been taken 
up before by Kavyas in Orissa. 

Each of the six other Kavyas, ‘Kedar Gouri’ (1886), Chan- 
drabhaga (1886), Nandikeswari (1887), Usha (1888), Parvat 
(1890) and Jajatikesari (1894) narrates a complete story, portrays 
some characters, describes some natural scenes, describes the 
appearance of objects and persons, tries to create beauty, deals 
with imagination, feelings and emotions, and preaches values 
regarding human conduct and behaviour. All these six Kavya 
poems are imaginative romances dealing with legends about men 
and women and with love, and adventure. Except ‘Jajatikesari’, 
his other romantic Kavyas end in death and their stories try to 
follow the pattern of classical tragedies. Far away places, ruins 
and the past figure in all of them. 

Borrowed Plots: 

In almost all his Kavyas, the plots were borrowed from other 
sources and were suitably modified so as to appear as genuine 
local legends of Orissa. ‘Kedar Gouri’ gives the story of ‘Pyra- 
mus and Thisbe’ from Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’, ‘Chandrabhaga’ 
of ‘Daphne and Adomis’ from the same text with borrowings 
from Pope’s ‘Windsor Forest’, ‘Nandikeswari’ presents Ovid’s 
‘Scilla and Ninus’ with some modifications, Usha presents Ovid’s 
story of ‘Atalanta’s race’ with some additions and modifications, 
‘Parbati’ deals with a legend taken from the Oriya ‘Madala 
Panji’ that is the ‘Chronicles of Kings’ with borrowings from 
Aeschylus’ play. ‘Agamemnon’, and ‘Jajatikesari’ borrows its plot 
from the poem ‘Bidya Sundar’ by the Bengali poet Bharat 
Chandra and also from the Sanskrit ‘Choura Panchasika’. 

Themes: 

The general trend of the theme in each one of these six 
romances is the behaviour of human beings afflicted with phy- 
sical passion for the opposite sex which is what Radhanath 
means by his use of the word ‘love’ (‘Prema’ or ‘Priti’) and that 
impulse defies parental authority social inhibitions and all consi- 
derations of propriety and safety. In ‘Kedar Gouri’, a boy and a 
girl run away from home and commit suicide. In ‘Chandra- 
bhaga’, a sex-mad youth represented as the Sun God of Konarak 
chases a girl who then drowns herself in the sea. In ‘Nandi- 



THE WRITINGS OF RADHANATH RAY 


37 


keswari’, a princess maddened by ‘love’ for an invader steals out 
of her father’s fort at night to meet him, professes her love 
for him, offers him her father’s mascot jewel, and when 
he spurns at her love, commits suicide. In ‘Usha’, youngmen 
eager to marry a girl, run races with her, lose the contest and 
are killed, one such youth succeeds in winning the race by a 
stratagem, but when he marries her, the two suddenly die. In 
‘Parvati’, a father commits incest on his daughter and then gets 
her and her illegitimate child murdered. In ‘Jajatikesari’, a boy 
and a girl fall in love, she hides her lover who is disguised as a 
girl in her room, and they live happily until detected, he was 
about to be put to death, but a goddess intervenes and then hex- 
father gives her in marriage to him. 

Descriptions of places, objects and scenes 

Kedar Gouri: 

‘Kedar Gouri’ is the briefest of these nine Kavya poems, 
having 106 lines, each of 20 letters. Almost its entire length has 
been taken up by the narration of the story. Description of 
natural scenery and familiar scenes to the minutest detail by 
means of a keen observation constitutes the highest excellence 
of Radhanath’s poetry, it only made its appearance in this poem 
and was more in evidence in his next Kavya, ‘Chandrabhaga’. 

Cn ANDRABH AG a: 

‘Chandrabhaga’ has 270 lines with 16 letters in each. A tense 
description of the chase of the girl ‘Chandrabhaga’ by the Sun- 
god who has been painted here 'as the villain of the piece makes 
interesting reading. The images here have also been taken from 
Ovid’s narration and from Pope’s ‘Windsor Forest’ but they have 
been successfully rendered into Oriya so as to appear as original. 
These two earlier poems were, however, preliminary experi- 
ments, a much fuller Kavya poem was the third one, ‘Nandi- 
keswari’. 

Nandikeswari; 

‘Nandikeswari’ has 1074 lines, each with 12 letters, and is 
divided into two cantos. Nearly four-fifths of the poem is com- 
mon verse, without any extraordinary quality, relieved at times 



38 


RADHANATH RAY 


by pictorial description, even then, its charm lies in the fact that 
it contains a detailed description of different scenes, persons and 
places in Orissa, named and described in Oriya poetry for the 
first time. In addition, nearly 165 lines have a high Iitei-ary 
excellence. These include, in Canto I, the description of a dawn, 
the description of a scene when a river-goddess, Ganga appears 
before the hero, Chora-Ganga, a scene of river Mahanadi in 
flood, another of a water-fall named ‘Pradhanpat’ situated in 
Bamara, and in Canto II, descriptions of a sun-set, of a scene at 
midnight, a festival in a temple and a moon-lit night. There is 
an unforgettable picture of princess Nandika, maddened by lust, 
moving out at dead of night with intent to betray her honour, 
her father and her country. The theme of the poem has been set 
in the background of a war of invasion and it contains a descrip- 
tion of a militay camp, soldiers and fights. 

Usha: 

‘Usha’ is almost of the same length as ‘Nandikeswari’. The 
core of the story is ‘Atlanta’s race’ but Radhanath had added 
two more legends from his imagination, one about the birth of 
the hero and the heroine, Jayanta and Usha, and the other about 
the origin of the peacock emblem of the Raja of Mayurbhanj. 
The heroine. Princess Usha, has been shown as leading the life 
of a hunter, moving with a bevy of other beautiful girls, hunting 
in the jungle and also in a river, Balangi, and thus, an occasion 
has been created to portray feminine beauty, scenes of shikar, 
and charming natural scenes. Suitors for her hand have been 
described as having come from different parts of the country, 
and so, different places in Orissa from where they are supposed to 
have come have been named and described. The poem has been 
enriched by portraits of birds, animals, mountains, jungles and 
other natural scenes. There is a moving description of the 
cremation of the dead bodies of the hero and the heroine at the 
end of the poem, demonstrating an ability to paint a tense 
atmosphere which Radhanath could at times achieve. 

Parvati: 

‘ParvatP, though left unfinished, shows Radhanath’s art in 
its maturity. Like some other Kavyas of Radhanath, the lack of 
taste displayed in selecting its theme detracted from its quality. 



1 HE WRITINGS OF RADHANATH RAY 


39 


it is an unwholesome story of brutality, vice, incest and murder, 
but while an insignificant portion of the whole is taken up by 
the story which remains scattered in two isolated patches, the 
bulk of the interest of the poem derives from its charming 
descriptions. The poem consists of two cantos and has 902 lines, 
each with an average of 7 words or 20 letters. It describes several 
natural scenes, and familiar scenes at different hours of the day, 
and gives portraits of different places in Orissa. It contains a 
description of the colourful c Dol Jatra’ festival at Puri. There 
is a unique picture of hills all along the sea-coast, from Balasore 
to Puri, on which bon-fires have been lighted in order to con- 
vey news of a military victory. There are also pictures of tribal 
dances. Some of the charming descriptions have a nostalgic 
touch. There are also scenes of sieges and battles. A novelty 
about the content of this poem lay in its subtle portrayal of a 
despot and his activities, and in its denunciation of tyrants and 
oppressors. This was a new feature which had rarely been seen 
before in Oriya literature. King Gangeswara has been portrayed 
as a cruel, selfish, avaricious, lustful and blood-thirsty villain. 
The poet takes pains to describe how he laps the fat of the 
land, enjoying the very best produce of each place in his king- 
dom. Birds shut up in a menagerie in his palace and silently 
suffering their bondage bring to mind the lot of his slaves and 
of the people over whom he rules. There is a long and humor- 
ous description, in the Chaucerian manner, of people drawn 
from various walks of life, they chant ‘Glory to King Ganges- 
wara’, that was only meant to signify that the common people 
had become callous and indifferent to their exploitation and 
slavery, and had no political awareness. Radhanath denounced 
despots and oppressors through the words of Kanchuki, an old 
guard of the palace. The writing of ‘Parvati’ was interrupted 
because the poet’s eldest son Sashu Bhusan Ray fell seriously 
ill and so he had to pass anxious days, but it was not resumed 
even after his son recovered, obviously due to some other 
considerations. In a letter addressed by Radhanath to Biswanath 
Rath, primary school teacher at Poktunga, and published at 
pages 216-217 of D.C. Ray’s biography, it is mentioned that 
‘Parvati’, which had remained incomplete, was not even half of 
what it had been planned to be. There can be no conjecture as 
to how the rest of it might have been. A write-up in prose 



40 


RADHANATH RAY 


concluding the story published after the poet’s death in his 
‘Granthavali’ (i.e. ‘complete works’) lacks authenticity, it cannot 
be accepted as something which Radhanath wrote or intended to 
write. 

Chilika: 

‘Chilika’, as has been mentioned earlier, is a unique Kavya 
poem dealing with description of natural scenes, but having no 
regular plot nor character. It is a string of pictures interspersed 
with observations by the poet. As in some other poems of 
Radhanath, the poem contains descriptions of different places 
in Orissa, of the Chilika lake, hills, jungles, rivers, temples, and 
etc., of varieties of birds, plants, flowers, fish and sharks. Signi- 
ficant details have been given. Changes occurring in the same 
scenes according to changes in the light at different hours of the 
day have been sought to be depicted. There are familiar scenes 
of fishermen coming back in the evening in their boats and 
singing popular songs on their way, of herds of cattle returning 
from hills at dusk, their bells ringing, of water-fowl floating on 
waves, spreading over the water and also hovering above in the 
sky like clouds, of hills and forests reflected in the lake in the 
moon-lit night, of the lake tossed in a roaring storm and etc. 
The description has been mixed with pictures of the Himalayas, 
of the Rajasthan desert, the Vindhyas, the Godavari River, and 
etc. so as to present contrasts. There are two snatches of legends, 
one is a description of a boat-journey by King Purusottam a 
Gajapati returning after conquering Kanchi, bringing with him 
Princess Padmavati, the Kanchi King’s daughter whom he was 
to marry in future. The other is about Goddess Gurubeyi 
directing an attack in a storm in the Chilika lake against an 
invader named Raktabahu and his forces who were in their 
boats. 

Mahajatra: 

‘Mahajatra’ which followed next, remained incomplete. It 
appears to have been planned on a grand scale but only a frag- 
ment of the entire poem that was planned is available in point. 
Even then, it is in 7 cantos which are much longer than any 
other single Kavya of Radhanath. It has 2391 lines, each with 5 
words on an average, and with 14 letters in each line. The idea 



THE WRITINGS OF RADHANATH RAY 


41 


was to portray the downfall of India starting from the quarrel 
between Prithviraj and Jaychandra, and also to trace its causes. 
It would be idle to conjecture if Radhanath would have stretch- 
ed his story up to the British conquest of India. But the narra- 
tive was cut short after the first battle between Prithviraj and 
his enemies had been described in Canto VII. The poem is parti- 
cularly significant because it was the first Oriya Kavya in which 
blank verse was used. A speciality of the poem particularly 
found in its 4th canto is its description of vices like the Seven 
Deadly Sins as in Spenser and which signified the advent of the 
Kaliyuga or ‘Age of Perverted Values’. Socio-political problems 
particularly those connected with the moral values which had 
an all-India significance were dealt with in this poem for the 
first time in Oriya literature. The poem has a historical pers- 
pective, a deep patriotic fervour and it expresses strong nationa- 
list sentiments. The second and third Cantos contain some 
charming descriptions of natural scenes in hilly areas. 

Jajatikesari 

‘Jajatikesari’ was the last of Radhanath’s romantic Kavyas. 
It has 1116 lines, each of 20 letters or seven words on an ave- 
rage. After ‘Mahajatra’ which was his most serious composition, 
‘Jajatikesari’ was a light, breezy, and even flippant creation in 
which the main interest centered round the narration of a 
romantic, dreamy and fantastic story. The poem showed Radha- 
nath as a spent force. It contained some patches of good natural 
scenes but it lacked the quality of the description found in his 
earlier Kavyas. 

Darabara 

‘Darabara’, the last of his Kavyas, contains no particular 
plot nor character, it consists in the main of a series of satirical 
portraits. There are 745 lines, the first four pay homage to 
the historic Barabati fort, then follow 51 lines depicting the 
scene of an official Durbar, the idea was probably taken from 
the one held at Cuttack in 1896 when Mr. Cook, Commissioner 
of Cuttack conferred the title of ‘Rai Bahadur’ on Radhanath’s 
sister’s husband, the Zemindar of Kaupur, and the title of 
‘Maha-Mahopadhyaya’ on Samanta Chandrasekhara. A gallery 
of satirical portraits has been presented in lines 52 to 204 



42 


RADHANATH RAY 


where there is a comic and ironical description of the elite of 
the land quarrelling among themselves for seats in the higher 
ranks in that ceremonial gathering, and while putting up their 
respective claims for recognition, bragging of the posts that 
they held under the Government, of their noble descent, of their 
wealth and etc. and in sundry ways, parading their vanity. Some 
of them have been described as flaunting their gorgeous attires 
and the ornaments that they wore, others have been shown as 
strutting pompously and some people have been shown as 
parading their sedulous imitation of English airs, intonation, and 
even gestures. The poet deplores that the lure of empty titles 
makes such people to run after British officers like their pet dogs 
and to squander money in their efforts to please high ranking 
officers. The humorous vein of the narrative then turns didactic 
for a time after 204 lines, and the poet preaches some moral 
values, but soon, the poet errupts into vitriolic denunciation of 
the Rajas of Garjat States condemning their pomp, pride, selfish- 
ness and vices and castigating them for exploiting the common 
people and oppressing them. Finally, in lines 643 to 725, he 
praises Samanta Chandrasekhara, a famous astronomer of Orissa 
who belonged to a royal dynasty. 

The people who have been caricatured in the poem have 
been labelled by the poet as belonging to ‘the new-fangled con- 
temporary society of Orissa’. Obviously, he had some of his 
contemporaries in his mind when he composed the satire. He 
nursed a grouse against some English educated people of the 
day who had criticised him in the Press. As his letters to Meher 
reveal, his open denunciation of Feudatory Chiefs in this poem 
was preceded by a feeling that they had no zeal for promoting 
literature and not one of them had done enough to help h im 
materially. 

New ideas: 

Radhanath Ray expressed some ideas in Oriya poetry that 
went against conventional beliefs and attitudes, and, irrespective 
of their worth, at least stimulated free and rational thinking. 

Love: 

When he described young people falling in love, he portrayed 
love as animal passion that did not wait for the sanction of 



THE WRITINGS OF RADHANATH RAY 


43 


parents and elders. Often, his young people in love were rebels 
against parental authority. This was described in his very first 
Kavya ‘Kedar Gouri\ In ‘Nandikeswari’, his heroine Nandika, 
declared, 

“When a scripture says: £ A father has absolute right over his 
daughter’, 

I reject that scripture with a bow.” 

Oriya poets before him would have shuddered to think of 
such sentiments which offended accepted codes of conduct and 
traditional ideas of morality. When those poets had described 
a boy and a girl in love, the two were either a married couple 
or were meant to be married together by their parents, and it 
was sinful for any one to love a person of the opposite sex with- 
out the sanction of his or her parents. Radhanath presented 
the western attitude in such matters and spoke of free choice of 
partners by boys and girls. Not did ‘love’ in his poems seldom 
rise above the level of sex. 

His attitude to Hindu Deities: 

Another departure noticed in his poems from the characteris- 
tics of traditional Oriya poetry was his sacrilegious attitude to 
Hindu deities who till then had been held by poets in deep 
reverence. He mocked at them and at their powers, portraying 
them as endowed with all human weaknesses and as having no 
power to protect their devotees from misfortune. He perhaps 
thought that such deities were fictitious and imaginative crea- 
tions made by people in the past. He portrayed some deities 
in his ‘Chandrabhaga’, they were no better than human beings 
and had the same weaknesses of vanity, spite, anger, jealousy, 
greed, and as in the Sun-God, also unbridled lust, and callous- 
ness to suffering. In the same poem, he narrated how a human 
being, an old sage named Sumanyu was more powerful than 
the Sun-God, his curse brought down the Sun-God’s temple. 
He described in ‘Nandikeswari’ how the inhabitants of a belea- 
guered fort had depended on their Guardian Angel, a Goddess 
whom they worshipped, for their protection, but after descri- 
bing a grand ceremony held in the temple of the Goddess in 
Her honour, Radhanath went on to say, how immediately after, 
it, severe calamity overtook the few people of the fort their 
princess disgraced herself and committed suicide and her father. 



44 


RADHANATH RAY 


the King, abdicated in favour of the invader. In ‘Parvati’, he 
narrated the story of a horrible crime committed to a girl, but 
he took care to make her ghost tell her mother. Queen Parvati 
that the soul deed took place at a sacred place in full view of 
saints and deities and they did nothing to help her. She even 
exclaimed, 

“My mother, God does not care what happens to 
human beings: He is there only for gods.” 

His attitudes to mediaeval rulers: 

Before Radhanath, Oriya poetry had rarely spoken ill of 
Kings and Queens. Ancient dynasties of Orissa had been held 
by the people in high esteem and the people of Orissa took 
pride in some of the Kings of such dynasties. But Radhanath 
was guided by his own judgment of people and by his own likes 
and dislikes. Though his personal relations with rulers of 
Garjat States left no room for suspicion in their minds and he 
was on the best of terms with several of them he seemed to 
have hated Rajas as a class, so that, when he told stories about 
Kings and Princesses in his poems, he painted most of them as 
abominable creatures. This is evident from four of his Kavyas, 
‘Nandikeswari’, TJsha\ ‘Parvati’ and ‘Jajatikesari’. It is not 
that he was narrating history, he exercised his choice and bor- 
rowed from foreign models and passed off such characters as 
belonging to royal dynasties of Orissa and also added from his 
own imagination. Nandika in ‘Nandikeswari’ is a sex-mad prin- 
cess who shamefully betrays her honour, her father, her King and 
her country to an invader and then commits suicide. Usha is ano- 
ther princess who minds only her Shikar and her outing, she is 
eager to beat any one who runs a race with her and she does not 
care that those who lose the race have also to lose their heads 
at the scaffold. Her father is equally callous to their sufferings. 
Radhanath meant to convey that mediaeval princes and princ- 
esses led despotic, tyrannical, selfish lives and cared nothing how 
other people suffered. In ‘Parvati’ he depicted the character of 
mediaeval kings at their worst. In ‘Jajatikesari’ he drew unedify- 
ing pictures both of princesses and princes. The King’s daughter, 
Lalita has been painted as another sex-crazy girl, her thoughts 
are occupied only with her animal cravings. Her lover Jajati, 
disguises himself as a woman and she hides him in her bed- 



THE WRITINGS OF RADHANATH RAY 


45 


chamber. Though ‘Jajatikesari’ is a legendary hero of Orissa and 
his name is recalled with pride and veneration, Radhanath 
put him in an imaginative and fantastic story and painted him 
as a dissolute youngman goaded by sex. The pictures that he 
thus painted had no relation to history. People found fault 
with his taste and some critics thought that he had unjustly 
slandered the princes and hurt popular sentiments. He condemn- 
ed the princes openly and in very strong language in his Kavya 
‘Darabara’. He said: 

“Music, hunting, keeping birds for sport. 

Drinking and gambling, that is all you do. 


The ethics of your government are only to 

loot your subjects, 

Rogues, dacoits, back-biters and liars are 

your ministers.” 


His Social Consciousness 

He often wrote in his poems against the evils that he obser- 
ved in society. He was eager to preach moral values and to de- 
nounce follies, weaknesses and vices. He dealt with various so- 
cial problems in his poem ‘Mahajatra’ where he analysed the 
course of the degradation of different classes of society in India 
leading to the downfall of the country as a whole. His satire 
‘Darabara’ exposed and ridiculed the follies, vanity and vices of 
different classes of people. Tyranny, oppression, despotism and 
cruelty were particularly denounced by him at different places 
in his poems. He wrote about love, romance, beauty, dreamy 
scenes and natural scenery, but he also turned to human pro- 
blems with intellectual probing. 

Nationalism: 

At places, he preached nationalism, though he did not often 
jeopardise his safety by doing so openly. The very fact that he 
enshrined different places in the country in his poems and por- 
trayed familiar scenes in glowing colours focussed attention on 
the land and fostered patriotism; in addition he was often re- 
minding people that they once had a glorious tradition from 



46 


RADHANATH RAY 


which they had fallen. He denounced alien conquerors of India 
in a hooded manner in his poem ‘Mahajatra’. 57 lines occurring 
at the end of Canto V of that poem were later challenged as 
being seditious. In those lines the words and expressions that he 
had used had a double meaning. The word ‘Yavana’ meant a 
‘Muslim’ as well as ‘foreigner’. ‘Sindhu’ which the Yavanas 
had to cross in order to invade India meant ‘the river Indus’ 
in its application to Muslims and the ‘ocean’ in its application 
to the British. Radhanath described how the Yavanas were 
flesh-eaters like beasts, were ‘ferocious and cruel like wild ani- 
mals’, were ‘revengeful, fond of vulgar pleasures’, engaged ‘in 
diplomatic struggles’, were ‘experts in the art of deceitful politics’ 
and how they would enter India under the pretext of propagat- 
ing their religion and would then loot India. There was a glow- 
ing fire in his nationalism but being a practical, wordly wise and 
cautious man, he kept it camouflaged. 

His camouflage: 

The art of camouflage practised by him in his poetic per- 
sonality has an interesting and baffling duality ; a particular 
word or line in his poem would mean different things to diffe- 
rent readers and serve different tastes. He had a strong attach- 
ment for realism, he painted landscapes as he saw them and he 
tried to portray human beings by viewing them not as embodi- 
ments of virtue but with their weaknesses and vices. Yet his 
poems are full of moral teachings and wise sayings. He was 
primarily concerned with the joys of living, and he dwelt with 
gusto on physical beauty and animal pleasures, but often, he 
affected a stance of ascetic withdrawal and renunciation, speak- 
ing of the transitoriness and unreality of earthly existence and the 
joys of a fancied life hereafter. He was a materialist and a ratio- 
nalist in the basic outlook of his poems, and yet he delivered 
sermons containing religious fervour and moral teachings. He 
ridiculed and caluminised the Rajas and yet sang the praises of 
some of them in high flown panegyrics. He believed in right 
conduct as dictated by reason, and in preparation and effort as 
the means to change one’s fortune, and yet he struck up the 
attitude of a pessimist and a fatalist. He fostered nationalism and 
denounced the foreign Government, yet he wrote panegyrics to 
Queen Victoria. He adopted a camouflage in order that he should 



THE WRITINGS OF RADHANATH RAY 


47 


not expose himself to risk and that his place in society, his job 
and his relations with his admirers, friends and patrons would 
remain safe and assured. 

His Philosophy of Life: 

He displayed a broad vision and was far too advanced for 
his times. He tried to interpret the human predicament and the 
human existence in the context of Time, and so, was always 
conscious of change and death and had a natural humility. 
Animal passion as portrayed by him was a symbol for earthly 
joys for which man has the greatest hankering, but he showed 
that earthly existence was only a Tantalus’ Cup where whatever 
blossomed forth and tended towards fruition was only meant to 
die and history was made only to be forgotten. Life, vivid with 
sense experiences, was shown to be flashing in a moment as 
symbolised by bright landscapes, only against the background 
of death and eternity, death was shown as ever present, symbo- 
lised in the resolute sound of bells which loom large in his 
poems, and the creeping shadows of hills that he often described 
as blotting out land and sky only signified death that was ever 
coming nearer and nearer. He viewed man as fighting a lonely 
battle against heavy odds, a frail creature destined to be wiped 
out, and till then, placed in an absurd situation, without any 
choice on his part, but he believed that till the very last, the 
game must be played. His Kavyas in this sense can be viewed 
as novels much beyond the range of those produced years later 
even by Fakirmohan Senapati. 

Poetics: 

The poems of Radhanath Ray displayed various qualities of 
‘Kavya’ as mentioned in Sanskrit poetics and it became an intel- 
ligent occupation for scholars to spot those out. Most of his 
themes also evinced different qualities of Aristotelian tragedy. 
At the same time, they afforded the pleasures of reading novels. 

Influence of other writer on Radhanath: 

Among English poets, he was particularly influenced by 
Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Cowper, Wordsworth, 
Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, Scott, Byron, Gray, Dryden, Pope, 
Tennyson and by English translations of Ovid’s ‘Metamorphosis’, 



48 


RADHANATH RAY 


Goethe’s ‘Faust’, works of Dante and Petrarch, and of Homer, 
Aristotle, Aeschyles and Sophocles. From the romantic poets, he 
imbibed his idea of writing long poems based on imagination, 
secular legends, his preoccupation with ruins and the past, his 
emphasis on the description of natural scenes, description of 
familiar places, his sensuous portrayal of beauty, the prominence 
which he gave to unfettered love, and his sentimental brooding. 
He borrowed plots, characters, descriptions, technique and ideas 
from these foreign sources and recreated in his own words in his 
poems. He used the soliloquy in his poems as an atrifice which 
he picked up from Shakespeare and in imitation of the ghost 
in ‘Hamlet', he introduced a ghost in his ‘Parvati’. He personi- 
fied the ‘deadly sins’ in his ‘Mahajatra’ in imitation of Spenser. 
In short, he tried his best to bring into Oriya poetry whatever 
impressed him in his study of English books, and often his 
poems are interspersed with lines which are Oriya renderings in 
verse of English originals. By this means, he brought a wealth 
of new matter into Oriya poetry for the first time and people of 
his day who could trace the sources, admired his scholarship, 
while those who could not were mystified by the weight of his 
scholarship and by his ‘inventiveness’. 

Similar was the case with borrowings from Sanskrit poets, 
though that was not a new thing to do, several other poets 
before him having done so on different occasions. So too, he 
borrowed at times from some classic Oriya poets before him, 
particularly from poets like Upendra Bhanja, Abhimanyu, 
Dinakrushna, and Kavisurjya Baladeva Ratha of the ‘Riti 
School’ of whom he was particularly fond. Another source of 
his borrowings, like English which also gave his poetry the airs 
of novelty was Bengali, he was influenced particularly by Michael 
Madhusudan Dutt. 

His Scholarliness; 

He had a deep respect for scholarship and he had the belief 
that literature would be of little worth unless it contained and 
displayed scholarship. His views were no doubt conditioned by 
his life as a teacher for 8 years and his life-long contact with the 
function of education. His writings were thus grounded in scholar- 
liness. It meant specifically that they deliberately evinced 
proof of his wide reading, his sophisticated knowledge of langu- 



THE WRITINGS OF RADHANATH RAY 


49 


age and the technicalities of grammar, composition, rules of 
poetics and of an outlook that was cultured and refined and was 
distinguished from that of the average run of people by study, 
assimilation and deep contemplation. 

Literature to him was a very serious and extraordinary 
matter. Ashe once wrote to Meher, “It was after long years 
that I could acquire knowledge about literature of a high order 
of excellence, but no sooner had I done so, than had I to dis- 
sociate myself from writing.” To the study of books was to be 
added patient and keen observation. He wrote in 1903 while 
writing about Gangadhar Meher’s poetry, “Not only study of 
books but a study of nature which is like a book is indispensably 
necessary in order to make a poet.” With such serious purpose 
and scholarliness his writings had a peculiar glamour though 
they were often characterised by artificiality, verbosity, and a 
tendency to deliver sermons every now and then in which he 
doled out platitudes. 

His style: 

The impress of learning which Radhanath brought to bear 
upon literature was reflected in his poetical style. Unlike Fakir- 
mohan Senapati, he was a town-bred man with lesser contact 
with the nuances of the living speech of the masses, and he did 
not use that speech at home where he spoke a mixture of Oriya 
and Bengali. The best of Oriya poetic style had developed in the 
course of ages out of the living colloquial speech in preference 
to Sanskrit, a deliberate vein adopted by masters of Oriya poetry 
like Sarala Dasa, Balarama Das, Biswanatha Khuntia, Gopala 
Krushna and several others who were at the same time, great 
scholars in Sanskrit. But Radhanath was not at home in that 
style, and so, he developed his style out of his study of Sanskrit, 
his study of some ‘Riti’ poets who had written in a Sanskritic 
style, also on the model of Bengali books that he had read, and 
out of the style of Oriya text books, which, in the initial stages, 
had been prepared by translating from Bengali by inept trans- 
lators who could not bring out the differences between the two 
languages. He also derived his Oriya vocabulary from the Oriya 
language spoken in urban, ‘refined circles’ that is by those who 
used a businesslike dialect in which typical, forceful colloquial 
Oriya expressions had been replaced, sometimes by expressions 



50 


RADHANATH RAY 


common to Bengali and Hindi, or by renderings of English ex- 
pressions and usage which did not preserve the characteristic 
syntax and idiom of Oriya. He relied more on Sanskrit expres- 
sions, more often using words of Sanskrit origin which were 
commonly used in Bengali while there were other synonymous 
words of Sanskrit origin which were more commonly used in 
Oriya. But the words that he chose were generally of simple 
Sanskrit, with unambiguous meaning, were pictorial, musical 
and evocative. The £ Riti’ poetry of Orissa was only one of the 
many forms of Oriya poetry then existing But it was much in 
vogue in his time among the cultural elite because of its music, 
its colour and its challenge to the intellect to unravel different 
meanings out of a single word. Radhanath, however, did not 
write in riddles, and his poetry could be easily understood by 
any one who had an elementary knowledge of Sanskrit. That 
was another reason why it gained ready acceptance and wide 
popularity in preference to the £ Riti’ style. He tried various 
modes ranging from a simple style to a heavy, ornate style made 
of compound words, and also varying mixtures between the 
two. Thus, ‘Nandikeswari’ was more Sanskritic than ‘Kedar 
Gouri’, while £ Usha' was heavily Sanskritic. A balance was struck 
in ‘Parvati’ which showed his style at its best. Again in ‘Chilika* 
it grew more Sanskrit and was heaviest in £ Mahajatra\ It was 
only in ‘Darabara’, his satire, that he tried to write poetry almost 
in spoken Oriya. In some of his minor poems, he tried to write 
partly in the manner of Sarala Dasa but he was not successful. 

Blank Verse: 

Madhu Sudan Rao had already tried blank verse in the 
eleventh stanza of his poem ‘Chandra O Tara’ in 1 873 and 
Rudra Narayan Patnaik had used it in his poem Ananga Vijaya 
Kavya in 1879 before Radhanath used it in his ‘Mahajatra’ in 
1894,'but Radhanath established blank verse in Oriya poetry. It 
was modelled on Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ but had been borrowed 
from the Bengali poet Michael Madhusudan Dutt who had 
already used it with success. Radhanath used some of the 
‘Chhandas’ prevalent in Oriya poetry, but unlike other impor- 
tant poets whose poems had been set to music, he evolved a 
pattern of poetry that could be appreciated only by silent read- 
ing or by recitation without producing musical effect. The tra- 



THE WRITINGS OF RADHANA1H RAY 


51 


ditional Oriya ‘Chhandas’ fell into disuse as his poetry gained 
popularity. 

End Rhyming: 

A very important change which he introduced in Oriya poetry 
following what was in vogue in Bengali and which remained 
over till the rise of free verse late in the 20th Century was the 
method of ‘Upadha milan’ and rhyming and the ‘Matra Brutti 
Chhanda’. In Oriya poems, it had been sufficient before for the 
purpose of rhyming if the last letters, at the end of two conse- 
cutive sentences rhymed, now in addition it was required that 
the vowels and nasals immediately preceding the last letter 
should also rhyme and each line should have an equal number 
of accents and that at corresponding places. This curtailed free* 
dom but made the lines more musical. 

Oriya Poetry before Radhanath: 

7th to 17th Centuries 

The Oriya poetry that Radhanath composed was thus entirely 
new in many respects from what had existed before. Oriya 
poetry had begun with the compositions of saint-poets of the 
Vajrajana school in the 7th to 9th centuries. They were meta- 
physical poems concerned with their religious cult. In the 10th 
century, Gorakhanatha composed his Dohas, they were religious 
poems teaching the truths of his particular cult. Later in the 
10th century, Sarala Dasa composed his unique Mahabharata, 
an original composition built up from his imagination, portraying 
contemporary life, society, and moral values through legends, 
and barely leaning on the skeleton of the Sanskrit Mahabharata. 
He also introduced his unique c Dandi Brutta’ metre, which had 
absolute freedom, internal rhythms and was composed in the 
pattern of the music of the surf beating on the shore. One more 
of his Kavyas, ‘Chandipurana’ is available, though not his 
‘Ramayana’, a ‘Bilanka Ramayana’ in verse written by Siddhe- 
swara Dasa spuriously accredited to Sarala Dasa in the 20th 
century by its first publisher in print, the Amusdaya Press 1 being 
an inferior product of a much later age, probably of the 18th 
century. 2 

‘Matsyendra Gita’ and ‘Sishubeda’ written in the 14th century 
were esoteric literature, and Bachha Dasa’s ‘Kalasa Choutisa’ set 




52 


RADHANATH RAY 


the pattern of poems called ‘Chautisas’ with lines starting in 
order with each of the 34 letters of the Oriya alphabets. Three 
new forms were added in the 15th century. One was the ‘Koili’ 
or a poem addressed to a cuckoo employed as a messenger. The 
most famous of these was the ‘Kesaba Koili’ of Markanda Dasa 
which conveys Jasoda’s grief over her separation from Krishna. 
Another form of poetry was the ‘Janana’ or ‘Bhajana’ and a 
third was ‘Malasri’ reciting the various names of a particular 
sacred duty. ‘Rama Bibha’ by Arjuna Dasa describing Rama’s 
marriage and an Oriya translation in verse of Jayadeva’s ‘Gecta 
Govinda’ by Dharanidhara were other important compositions 
made in the 1 5th Century. 

Balarama Dasa continued the tradition of Sarala Dasa in his 
Ramayana, he flourished in the 15th to 16th century. The religi- 
ous poetry of the Vaishnava saint poets Balarama Dasa, Jagan- 
natha Dasa, Achyutananda Dasa, Jasobanta Dasa and Sishu 
Ananta Dasa was a valuable treasure added to Oriya literature 
in the 16th century. That period also saw the birth of the 
‘Choupadi’ pattern of poetry. Poets professioning and studying 
the Bhakti cult wrote their poems in the 17th century. New 
patterns of writing poetry such as the ‘Poi’, the ‘Padi% the 
‘Champu’, the ‘Bob’, the ‘Pata’ and the ‘Mangala’ were evolved. 
Folk styles coming down from previous centuries were deve- 
loped. A mass of religious literature based on the Ramayana, 
he Mahabharata, the cults of Lord Jagannath and other sacred 
deities was written in the 16th and the 17th centuries, highlight- 
ing the teachings of the Sastra and the practice of virtues and 
holding up # ideals of conduct and character. Many translations 
and adaptations of the Puranas were made in the 1 8th century 
and through legends connected with deities, life and contempo- 
rary society were vividly portrayed; one such instance was 
Pitambara Dasa’s Nrusingha Purana. 

The 18th Century: 

The famous school of ‘Riti Kavya’ came into prominence 
in the 18th century, its chief exponent was Upendra Bhanja. It 
was a variety of highly ornamented, richly musical poetry written 
in a riddle-like language capable of various meanings. Besides 
religious poems, a few lay poems were also written in the Riti 
style. In both these cases, while different ‘Rasas’ were portrayed. 



THE WRITINGS OF RADHANATH RAY 


53 


the emphasis was on sex, but unlike the treatment of sex in 
Radhanath, they portrayed married love or love that ended in 
marriage as sanctioned by society, or love of Lord Krishna with 
Gopikas that had a symbolical, spiritual, and non-physical signi- 
ficance. Upendra Bhanja’s ‘Labanyavati’ and ‘Koti Brahmanda 
Sundari’ are instances of lay love themes in the ‘Riti style’. 
Dinakrushna, Abhimanyu, and Jadumani were other great poets 
of the Riti School. 

The 19th Century: 

An important contribution to Oriya poetry in the 18th cen- 
tury had been the development of typically Oriya musical tunes 
known as ‘Chhandas’, which were even found in earlier centu- 
ries. There are such ‘Chhandas’ in Dharanidhara’s translation of 
the ‘Geeta Govinda’ composed in the 15th century. In the 16th 
century, Ray Ramananda Pattanayaka, a devotee of Sri Chai- 
tanya organised troupes of boys to sing songs of the divine 
‘Leela’, this also stimulated the composition of ‘Chhanda’ poems. 
In the 18th century, Biswanatha Khuntia wrote the entire Rama- 
yana in ‘Chhandas’. Kavisurjya Baladeva Ratha (1789-1845) was 
a great ‘Chhanda’ poet, he composed his famous ‘Champu’ 
poems. Gopala Krushna Pattanayaka (1785-1862) who died when 
Radhanath was in school was a famous Vaishnava poet who 
wrote hundreds of charming Chhanda poems about Lord Krishna 
and his Leela. Another famous Chhanda poet of those days was 
Banamali. 

Poems in a simple, exquisite and charming colloquial Oriya 
style dealing with various sentiments and mainly devotional and 
philosophical in character were being written even about the 
time when Radhanath was born. An important Vaishnava poet 
who wrote such poems was Bhakta Charana Dasa author of 
‘Mathura Mangala’ who died in 1855, other were Rama Dasa 
and Arakhita Dasa. A similar poet, a saint though not a Vaish- 
nava was the famous Bhima Bhoyi who fluorished in Radhanath’s 
time, he belonged to the ‘Mahima Dharma’ cult. A poem narrat- 
ing incidents from the history of Orissa and named ‘Kaliyuga 
Purana’ had been written in the 18th century by Kabira Saranga, 
it was followed by a historical poem ‘Samara Taranga’ by 
Brajanatha-Badajena , 



54 


RADHANATH RAY 


Contemporary Poets: 

This very brief review of the trends of Oriya poetry before 
Radhanath would indicate how his poetry was in many respects 
entirely different from what had existed before his time, it was 
new poetry, it replaced the older traditional poetry as that was 
pushed back when people turned to Radhanath. No one before 
him had written poetry with such a new out-look that was born 
of an English education and of new ideas current in the times 
newly introduced by the British rule. Fakirmohan Senapati first 
translated portions of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and 
published his first original poem ‘Utkala Bhramana’ in 1 892 long 
after Radhanath leapt to fame as a poet. Gangadhar Meher was 
another poet of that period, but his earliest poems ‘Utkala 
Lakhmi’ and ‘Indumati’ were published in 1894. Meher sent his 
MS of ‘Indumati’ to Radhanath for his comments and his MS 
of ‘Kichaka Badha’ was revised by Radhanath in 1903. 

Followers of Radhanath: 

Radhanath’s influence became at once apparent. ‘Sulochana’ 
(1889) and ‘Lakhmi’ (1892) by Dr. Rama Krushna Sahu, 
‘Chitrotpala’ (1892) by Sudhala Deva, ‘Ansupa’ by Damodara 
Mishra, poems by Sachidananda, Tribhubana Deva and Bada- 
kumara Balabhadra Deva, poems by several other poets of 
Orissa reflected his influence. This continued for years afterwards, 
with now and then a poet with his own individual genius and 
originality who could attract attention. 

Many lyrics were written by other poets of Radhanath’s age 
combining a new outlook derived from their study of English 
and their study of traditional models. Some, like a collection 
‘Nabodyama’ (1888) by Chandramohan Maharana d isplayed a 
high quality, but the productions were meagre. 

A strikingly new approach was made by Nandakishore Bala 
(1875-1928), famous for his folk-style and nostalgic touches. 

The break with the tradition of Radhanath: 

But Nandakishore Bala came into the field much later, and 
so too did Padma Charana Pattanayaka with his fine lyrics and 
talents and inimitable style and rhythm. The long Kavyas of 
Chintamani Mohanty written in 1901-1920 echoed Radhanath. 
Hundreds of poets wrote in the then ‘modern’ vein after Radha- 



THE WRITINGS OF RADHANATH RAY 


55 


nath, bringing in some innovations in style, form and content, 
but following in the main, the pattern set by him. The change 
became pronounced in the poems of the nationalist poets of the 
‘Satyabadi School’, Pandit Gopa Bandhu Das, Pandit Nilakantha 
Das and Pandit Godavaris Mishra. Then, since the nineteen 
thirties, there was more varied development of lyrical poems, 
new and striking varieties were evolved, and in the nineteen 
forties, a new type of poetry, intellectual, symbolic, more inti- 
mate and sincere began to emerge, making the break with the 
tradition of the age of Radhanath clear and undisputed. 



CHAPTER FOUR 


A Critical Estimate of Radhanath’s Poetry 


AN idea of the contributions of Radhanath to Oriya literature 
has been conveyed in the preceding chapter. They had novelty, 
bulk and high worth. They had the power to change tradition 
and to set up a new tradition. His poems dominated the field of 
Oriya literature for half a century or more. What is now intend- 
ed is to attempt a brief qualitative assessment of his poetry 
within the limitations that are only too well known, namely, 
that critical standards can rarely be uniform, and so, whatever be 
the logic that is advanced, the views that are expressed on the 
subject are always personal opinions. 

Some extra-hoetic considerations; 

The distance that separates a poet from his critics minimises 
extra-poetic considerations some of which might have weighed 
with the poet himself and some other considerations with his 
critics. Dr. N. Samantaraya in his learned and valuable thesis on 
Radhanath and in other books that I have mentioned in the 
bibliography at the end of this monograph has very diligently 
culled much topical information relating to his times. I have no 
wish to look at Radhanath’s poetry through the cob-webs of 
past events, partly known, partly distorted, and largely un- 
known. For instance, it is immaterial to me if, unlike what Dr. 
Samantaray has tried to make out, one reason for the popularity 
of Radhanath’s poems was that an army of teachers, students, 
text-book writers and publishers were always trying to seek his 
patronage or that he wrote the satire ‘Darabara’ because Garjat 
chiefs did not give him financial aid up to the measure of his 
expectations. Dr. Samantaray might be correct and he might 
not be, and I personally think that Radhanath was a shrewd, 
>yp_rld-wise mail, with sufficient prudence to know how to get 



A CRITICAL ESTIMATE 


57 


on, and that, though he was highly educated and refined, he was 
after all a man, and not a saint. 

Morbidity: 

I can even discover a trait of morbidity in his build-up due 
to ill-health, and a repressed childhood, he was living up to an 
image of himself that he wanted to convey to others, though 
what he truly was and thought was different, this duality gave 
a peculiar colour to his writings, he solemnly sermonised on 
morals, virtues and ideals, but in his imagination, gloated on 
sex and on self-indulgence in his poems, a fact which may ac- 
count for the bad taste that he displayed in the choice of themes. 
For instance, while he is describing the girl Chandrabhaga 
running away from the clutches of her pursuer, the lecherous 
Sun-God, shortly before she would end her agony by commit- 
ting suicide, he describes the physical charms of her bare body. 
He had described incest in ‘Parvati’, lesbianism in ‘Jajatikesari’, 
and rabid sex in Nandikeswari. But all that is hardly material 
for an appreciation of his poetry, a critic has no role as a scandal- 
monger or as a psycho-analyst. 

Some views of critics of the day: 

For the same considerations, I do not feel that while eva- 
luating his poetry, I must share the anger and revulsion of some 
important and knowledgeable critics of his time like Gouri 
Shankar Ray, Ram Narayan Lala, another critic who wrote 
about ‘Kedar Gouri’ and ‘Chandrabhaga’ in the ‘Naba Sambada’ 
of 17.1 1.1887, of yet another critic who wrote regarding ‘Nandi- 
keswari’ in the ‘Sanskara’ on 15. 1888, another who wrote 
regarding ‘Parvati’ in October 1891, nor of his friend Madhu- 
sudan Rao who was outraged by his defaming Jajatikesari 
because Radhanath had defamed royal dynasties revered in 
history, disparaged the character of women, and had narrated 
lewd stories and painted sexy pictures. Gouri Shankara Ray 
wrote in his ‘Utkala Dipika’ on 3.10.1891, “Radhanath Ray 
possesses such a prurient imagination that the stories that are 
born out of it are odious to the ear, too filthy to read, loathsome, 
degrading and vulgar.” All that can be said is that he was not 
particularly fond of edifying themes and tQ him the medieval 
rulers appeared to be debasing. 



58 


RADKANATH RAY 


His indifference to local patriotism and local 

problems: 

In spite of the euphoria with which he was regarded as a 
‘national poet’, it can also be said that he was not particularly 
interested in praising Orissa nor glorifying its people and tradi- 
tions. He was indifferent to local patriotism, his vision was 
broader, and he had his own judgment of people and places. He 
described the landscape of Orissa and various scenes of nature 
there but rarely glorified the people of Orissa, and except his 
heroes and heroines, other people described by him were gene- 
rally portrayed as painted pictures as a part of external nature. Nor 
did he write about their heroism, their greatness, nor about their 
problems, their miseries, nor about the floods, famines and disas- 
ters that he had witnessed. What he wrote about and what he did 
not relates only to the content of his poetry, the question of its 
quality still remains to be gone into. Contemporary critics let 
flung at him, he did not cross swords with them in public, but 
in his letters to Meher, he expressed his utter disgust and con- 
tempt for them, he described them in his anger, as ignorant 
fools who had no capacity to understand and appreciate litera- 
ture. While he had ample honour and approbation accorded to 
him he was subjected to no less adverse criticism and even 
vituperation. All that is past, his poems remain, to be studied and 
assessed. 

Lack of Originality: 

It would appear at the outset, that on the whole, while he 
showed assiduity and scholarship, he lacked originality and the 
stamp of genius, and that not only in comparison with poets in 
other languages but also in comparison with several past masters 
in the art in the Oriya language like Sarala Dasa, Jagannatha 
Dasa, Upendra Bhanja and several others. He synthesised his 
borrowings and acquisitions in graceful, refined words, and 
displayed an unusual imagination and talent while making those 
synthetic products to appear as his original creations. It goes to 
his credit that he knew what he had done. In a review of Meher’s 
poem ‘Kichaka Badha’ which he sent to Meher with his letter 
dated 13.8.1903, he wrote: 

“Genius has the right, sanctioned by precedent, to rebuild 
the old into a new product, and, secondly, to make borrowed 



A CRITICAL ESTIMATE 


59 


material to appear as original”. 

On 21.8.1903 he again wrote to Meher, communicating a 
modification of his former comment, it said: 

“Genius has the right, sanctioned by precedent, to rebuild 
the old so as to make it to appear as a new product, and, second- 
ly, to make borrowed material to appear as original.” 

His assertion gains no support from English poetics nor from 
Sanskrit poetics. He merely stated what he had practised. Accord- 
ing to the great Sanskrit poetician Mammata, the very basis of 
great poetry is a poet’s ‘genius’, an inborn quality acquired from 
a previous birth and one by which the poet is enabled to derive 
an original insight. He has rarely displayed that quality as a 
poet. 

Defective structure of iiis Poems: Defect in 
ms art of narration: 

The structure of his big poems was always diffuse, rambling, 
and loose, lacking in organisation and coherence. Portions can 
be cut out without producing any appreciable effect on the 
whole. There are frequent digressions. The parts are unbalanced, 
often have no relation to immediacy nor any other connection 
with each other, and the whole looks like a string of disjoined 
narrative scenes strung together. His narration and description 
suffer from a lack of discrimination in weeding out inessentials 
and details, from a bolstering long-windedness, verbosity, fre- 
quent outpourings of platitudes, sentimentality, and lack of 
suspense. The total effect is one of boredom, and dullness, one 
reason for which is that his narration and descriptions are in- 
terspersed with long patches of prosaic verse. 

He gives long catalogues of names of places having nothing 
in common between them and sometimes adds a line or two 
about each such place; no doubt, people of those villages point 
with pride at the names of their villages where they occur in 
Radhanath’s poems, but loading a poem with such material 
detracts from its poetic quality. There are repetitions, verbosity 
and conceits which spoil narration and description. A mechanical 
adoption of rules of poetics and of artifices used by other poets 
without achieving any artistic effect is at times another feature 
of his poems. Instances are his soliloquies, which are weak, senti- 
mental, long, descriptive and rambling, and with similar defect. 



60 


RADHANATH RAY 


his attempts to use the dramatic form of dialogues. 

Romantic Legends, his special forte: 

It is while creating legends from his imagination, either by 
taking over a single foreign legend and modifying it, or by 
combining portions from more than one such legend and adding 
from his imagination that he achieved success as a story-teller. 
He used to change the names of the characters and the places 
mentioned in the original legends into Oriya names. The localities 
in such legends were changed into known places in Orissa, parti- 
cularly to sites of historic importance. Existing local legends of 
Orissa, or historical traditions, wherever they stood in the way, 
were suppressed or changed. 

The legend of Kedar Gouri: 

In ‘Kedar Gouri’, which gives the story of ‘Pyramus and 
Thisbe’, Kedar is Pyramus and Gouri is Thisbe and the place 
has been changed to Bhubaneswar. There is the famous Kedar- 
Gouri temple at Bhubaneswar which pilgrims visit and where 
the deity ‘Kedar’ represents ‘Himavanta’, father of Goddess 
Durga when She was once born as Gouri. But in Radhanath’s 
poem a new and lay meaning has been given to the two deities. 
Kedar and Gouri have been described as a boy and a girl who 
fled from their parents as their parents opposed their marriage, 
they committed suicide, then a temple was built to their memory 
where idols representing them were installed for worship. This 
is a common instance of the manner in which Radhanath wove 
his legends. The legend gained popularity as it related to a 
known place, and local temple-guides found it to be profitable 
as a means by which to impress wide-eyed visitors. In order that 
a legend might stick, Radhanath took steps to find explanations 
from his imagination for every possible question about its plau- 
sibility that a reader might ask. 

The legend of Chandrabhaga: 

So too in ‘Chandrabhaga’, he transplanted the legend of 
‘Appollo and Daphne’ to a place on the sea-shore near the 
Konarak temple where there is a sacred pool bearing that name. 
Daphne was renamed Chandrabhaga, and her aggressor Appollo 
W5 described a§ the Sun-God of Konarak- The fatuous temple 



A CRITICAL ESTIMATE 


61 


at Konarak had tumbled down, an explanation was furnished 
by Radhanath by saying that Chandrabhaga’s father, who was a 
saint with miraculous powers had cursed the Sun-God and so, 
his house, that is the temple, collapsed. 

The legend of Nandike swari: 

His ability to conjure up a convincing legend from his imagi- 
nation was displayed better in ‘Nandikeswari’. All that the took 
from an existing historical tradition was that Chora Ganga Deva 
occupied the throne of Orissa and founded the Ganga dynasty 
while before him the Kesari dynasty had ruled Orissa and 
Subarna Kesari was its last king. Radhanath found a reason 
from his imagination why Chora Ganga had invaded Orissa, he 
said that Subarna Kesari worshipped Durga while Chora G an ga 
worshipped Ganga; in Hindu mythology Durga and Ganga are 
co-wives of Lord Shiva, Ganga had obtained a boon from Shiva 
and made her devotee invincible, and she wanted him to conquer 
Orissa and to do away with the worship of Durga in Orissa, and 
so he came to Orissa with his army. Radhanath created a ficti- 
tious character, Nandika, who, he said, was Subarna Kesari ’s 
only issue, she fell in love with the in vader, stole out of her 
father’s fort at night and offered to pi ace in the hands of the 
invader the mascot jewel that had guar ded her father’s life and 
his fort so long, he spurned at the offer, she committed suicide, 
her father turned a mendicant, her body was cremated in an 
island in the Kathjodi River near Cuttack, a temple was built 
on the site and a deity named ‘Nandikeswari’ was installed 
there. There is actually an island in that river known as ‘Nandi- 
keshwari Patha\ The fictitious legend created by Radhanath was 
thus meant to carry conviction, and the story of ‘Scilla and 
Ninus’ was passed off as a legend of Orissa. 

The legend of Usha: 

In ‘Atalanta’s Race’ transferred as ‘Usha’, Radhanath has 
exercised his imagination even much more by creating two 
legends to fit in with the main story. Jayanta and Usha, the hero 
and the heroine, had to die as soon as their hands were joined 
in marriage, and, before that, several princes who had run the 
fatal race for winning the hand of Usha had forfeited their heads. 
In order to explain why it so happened, Radhanath concocted a 



62 


RADHANATH RAY 


legend about their previous births, he said that they were Gan- 
dharvas who used to dance in the celestial court in Swarga and 
were cursed by Goddess Kali because they had once laughed 
at her hideous appearance and were ordered to be born as 
mortals; when they prayed for mercy. Kali relented and ordered 
that they would return back to the celestial court after dying in 
the manner narrated in that poem. He also explained that the 
King of the Gandharvas, Chitraratha was then born as Jayanta, 
and his wife Tilottama as Usha, and other Gandharva dancers 
were born as royal princes who later came to sue for Usha’s 
hand. Jayanta was described as an ancestor of the King of 
Mayurbhanj and another legend was made up in order to explain 
why kings of that line put a peacock’s plume in their crown, an 
imaginary explanation being given that Jayanta had won the 
favour of God Kartikeya by saying his celestial peacock from 
attack of a hunter while it grazed in a forest of Mayurbhanj, the 
peacock dropped a plume when it flew off, Jayanta picked it up 
and presented it to his father, the king, and so the Kings of 
that line adopted the ‘Mayura’ or peacock as their emblem. The 
same legend also explained why Jayanta won the race for Usha 
while other had failed, God Kartikeya had given him three golden 
lotuses and he befriended him. 

The legend of Parvati: 

In ‘Parvati’, he took over a legend from the local Chronicle 
of Kings, the ‘Madala Panji’, but rendered it bizaree and fantas- 
tic by attempting to build up characters in which he was never a 
success. What is recorded In the Madala Panji is that Madua (drun- 
kard) Bhanu Deva once raped his daughter while he was fully 
drunk, then repented, called a council of learned men and sought 
its advice as to how to expiate his sin, and acting on the advice 
of those persons, he made his daughter to move round a pitch 
of ground carrying a leaking water pot, and then he had a big 
tank dug in the space enclosed by the line of water that dripped 
from the pot and wetted the ground. But Radhanath represented 
Gangeswara prototype of Madua Bhanu Deva as a cold-blooded 
devil who did not act on the spur of the moment under the 
influence of liquor, but who acted with deliberation, persisted 
in his sinful overtures and amours and shut up his daughter in a 
solitary well. Radhanath also added a story of pregnancy, child- 



A CRITICAL ESTIMATE 


63 


birth, cold-blooded murder and also added another story from his 
imagination describing how Gangcswara attacked the King of 
Ratnapura because he coveted that King’s daughter. 

The legend of Jajatikesari: 

He attempted a legend about ‘Jajatikesari’ in his poem bear- 
ing that name. He made that powerful Shaiva King a devotee 
of Durga and offered an imaginative explanation that Jajati bore 
the title ‘Kesari’ or ‘lion’ because a lion is the favourite carrier 
of Goddess Durga. He concocted a legend in which he narrated 
a story of a clandestine love affair between Jajati add Princess 
Lalita, daughter of a local king. The legend lacked conviction, 
and was weak and fantastic. One of the reasons why it failed 
was that the weak, licentious character of the model from which 
Radhanath’s hero had been borrowed was wholly inapplicable 
to Jajatikesari who is remembered as one of the most powerful, 
virtuous and revered legendary King of Orissa. 

Defects in his portrayal of Character: 

Radhanath could not achieve success in the portrayal of 
human character, he was more concerned with the presentation 
of a dream-like story of wish-fulfilment, romance, and sex, his 
characters were only shadows in spite of the pains that he took 
to describe their physical appearance. He generally made them 
to indulge in long, rambling, sentimental out-pourings. 

Moods, Feelings and Sentiment: 

He showed some originality in describing in poetry a variety 
of common moods, feelings, sentiments and thoughts, though 
not in depth nor always in workmanship. At times, he could 
achieve effect, though the impression was watered down by 
repetitions, long windedness, hackneyed expressions, and 
packing of trivial details, and on the whole, due to lack of orga- 
nisation. 

His treatment of Love: 

There was nothing remarkable in his poetry about portrayal 
of love. He had described only animal craving, and at times, 
its agony and bitterness, but the portrayal lacked poignancy 
and depth because of sentimentality and excessive use of words. 



64 


RADHANATH RAY 


His treatment of Beauty: 

He is often discussed as a poet who created beauty and also 
as a poet of nature. What is common to both these roles is that 
he painted beautiful natural scenes. In addition, he was fond of 
portraying the appearance of beautiful women. Tn that respect, 
he followed classical models from Sanskrit and Oriya, also add- 
ing from descriptions that he had picked up from English, and 
he tried to follow the precepts of classical aesthetics. In his age 
when emphasis was laid on precedents, and particularly, with 
the tradition of ‘Riti’ poets in the background, on the mechani- 
cal observance of classical rules, much significance was attached 
to such efforts, but time had bedimmed the importance of that 
tradition. It is now open to question whether a description of 
the externals of a human body in chosen colours with the aid 
of far-fetched metaphors, and allusions to myths and legends 
constitutes any particular degree of excellence, specially when 
such portraits had already been drawn earlier and in a much 
better manner by masters like Kalidasa, Bhavabhuti and Upendra 
Bhanja from whom they were imitated. 

The poetic diction: 

The language used by Radhanath for such descriptions be- 
came hackneyed poetic diction which occurred again and again. 
A girl’s skin was ‘golden’, or was like ‘polished metal’, her di- 
shevelled hair was ‘like the lotus flower’, her lips,‘like rubies’, eyes 
‘like diamonds’, glances ‘ike those of a doe or of a fish’, she 
was ‘like a moon-beam’, and so on. Such cliches also mar his 
description of natural scenes. Thus at sun-set, in a river or in a 
tank, there always rise ‘vermillion waves’. Whenever there is a 
loud sound, ‘it drowns the roar of the sea’. The breeze always 
‘blows slowly’. Whenever butterflies fly, they flit ‘in rain-bow 
colours’, whenever birds move-about, ‘they move in dancing 
poses’. Anything that looks yellow ‘has the colour of gold’, 
‘Damsels robed in different colours guard different sectors of the 
sky’, ‘Flowers and leaves trembling in the wind ‘Fly like 
banners’. 

A common method that he employs in order to depict 
beauty is to repeat the plain meanings in the words she looks 
charming* in Euphemistic style and with the aid of metaphors 
over and over again. For instance, here is a passage from ‘Usha’: 



A CRITICAL ESTIMATE 


65 


“So lovely was she with none to compare 

that no smile could be found to describe her beauty 

Where is her equal in beauty in all the world? 

There is only another woman like her and that in heaven 
She is Indra’s wife, a liquid star-decked beauty 
A paragon of beauty among belles in heaven 
The only woman can compare with her”. 

Again in Canto 2, 

“Anyone who saw her lost his heart to her 

Loveliest of women, foremost of beauties 

She was the prison where all eyes of the world were locked 

Once any one saw her, her beauty’s flame 

Burned in his sky of rememberance like the Morning Star.” 

The purpose of using similies and allusions is to illustrate 
deeper meanings in a clearer and better manner, but he makes 
use of similies and allusions as ornaments, they are often far- 
fetched, having no relation to familiar human experience, they 
spoil the effect and muddle the sense instead of bringing it out 
more clearly. A defect often noticed in his style is that the words 
used by him convey a picture only in a broad and general way, 
and not in a specific manner so as to make out or pin-point deli- 
cate shades of meaning. 

His style: 

Often, his style suffers from showiness, pedantry, verbosity 
and artificiality. As has been mentioned earlier, he tried various 
modes, ranging from heavy, ornate, Sanskritic compounds to the 
use of simpler words as in Parvati, but a temptation to show off 
was generally the reason why he could not often achieve a better 
effect. 

But at times, particularly while describing natural scenery and 
familiar scenes, his style could rise free of such defects, he then 
used a few simple and suggestive words and achieved a remark- 
able effect. A sample of such style is in his first Kavya ‘Kedar 
Gouri’ for which it was instantly admired. Critics writing in 1866 
in ‘Sikshya Bandhu’ and in ‘Sanskrit’ admired it for the evoca- 
tive charm and sweetness of its style. The pity is that it could 



66 


RADHANATH RAY 


not often be maintained. At times, the simple words that he thus 
sparingly used had a deeper significance than what their plain 
meaning conveyed, and that too in the best tradition of the art 
of ‘Dhwani’ or suggestiveness which is mentioned in Sanskrit 
poetics. 

Thus, in ‘Chandrabhaga’, while describing a sun-set, Radha- 
nath says: 

“Green Kainsari vine creeping on sand dunes 
The only shade on burning sands 
Slowly stretched its limbs as day ended.” 

His art of description 
Nandikeswari: 

With the fewest and simplest words possible, Radhanath 
could, by a nostalgic touch, evoke the description of a familiar 
sun-set scene on the deserted sea-beach of Orissa. A powerful 
effect has similarly been achieved in ‘Nandikeswari’ by a single 
line where Radhanath suggestively points at a lamp burning in 
the tower in the fort in the bed-room of the princess at midnight 
when all the world is asleep. The light signifies the agonised, 
restless mind of Nandika, mad with her love for the enemy of 
her country, whom she would go out to meet in a shortwhile. 
While describing that tragic journey which ultimately led to her 
disgrace and suicide, Radhanath wrote: 

“And now she trod on thorny ground 

She whom her own shadow used to give a scare 

Walked without fear in that lonely place 

On the river bank were sacred relics 

Of the glory of her ancestors that she trod underfoot 

As she advanced in inky darkness 

Like the flaming, all-consuming Sea-fire 

Sweeping across the surface of the Ocean” 

Rarely have the quality of these eight lines been excelled in 
Oriya literature. With a few masterly strokes and in the fewest 
and simplest words, he had succeeded in interpreting the irony 
of the situation, and the import and consequence of what Nan- 
dika was doing, and at the same time, had symbolised in lite- 



A CRITICAL ESTIMATE 


67 


rature the spirit of a selfish, materialistic age that was foreign to 
the high moral values and traditions of the past. 

Mahajatra: 

He tried to develop the idea more fully in his ‘Mahajatra’. 
A similar effect has been achieved in that poem in the descrip- 
tion of the shadow of hills creeping over the landscape at dusk 
like a pall of smoke, it reminds one of death. 

Usha: 

In ‘Usha’ there are beautiful scenes where a shikar-expedition 
by Usha has been described. 

Parvati : 

The number of such prized hits increases in his ‘Parvati’. 
Describing the spring season he writes, 

“Golden buds of Champak flowers 

Glow like candles on trees in Cupid’s honour”. 

Describing married Brahmin ladies coming towards Puri 
along ‘Paths darkened by the shade of date palm groves’ he 
compares them with ‘molten lava from volcanoes flowing to the 
sea’. 

‘Chi lika’: 

His poem ‘Chilika’ is particularly admired for its charming 
description of natural scenes. It begins: 

“Blue sheet of water garlanded with ducks 
Swimming pool of Utkala’s Lakshmi 
Chilika, you arc the choicest diadem of Utkala 
The store-house of beauty of that fair land” 

The description is complete with the minutest details bring- 
ing out the significant aspects of the object described. Wherever 
a rich effect has been achieved, the style is simple and epigram- 
matic, but here too, his usual failings in the use of words, in 



68 


RADHANATH RAY 


the structure of the poem and in narration and description pre- 
dominate, so that gleanings have to be made in order to sort 
out the highlights of the poem. Close observation of details and 
the overwhelming charm of some bright patches make up for 
the loss of interest that is caused otherwise. On the whole, 
‘Chilika’ is a remarkable achievement. 

In this poem, Radhanath often describes the water-birds that 
constitute always the special charm of the Chilika lake parti- 
cularly in winter, and attract visitors from all ov6r India. A few 
examples are as follows: 


“Birds in their wave-swings break into song 

Masses of birds fly in the sky 

Like a cloud darkening your blue waters below.” 


At times he depicts familiar scenes in this poem In a charm- 
ing manner. Here is a scene of sun-set on the Chilika: 


“A throne is now set on Bhaleri hill 

For the sun to take his seat 

Portions of the hill are now in shade 

The green hill has turned blue 

Goats and sheep go back in herds 

Cattle-bells rumble from Jungle paths 

A line of smoke curls upward from the foot of the hill 

It rises from the cattle herds and spreads over the forest: 

‘Era’ ducks leave the lake, cackle and fly 

Seeking their nests in the jungle 

Their flapping wrings are tinted in gold by the sun”, 
etc. 

He shows proof of a sensitive eye for form and colour. 

His idea of Poetry 

He was strongly individualistic, and when he felt the urge 
to express himself in verse, he did so copiously, without discri- 
mination and reserve, and wrote in verse whatever came upper- 
most in his mind. He seems to have been concerned with two 
things: First, without being too fastidious about the quality of 



A CRITICAL ESTIMATE 


69 


the content, its artistic order and organisation, he must write 
and unburden himself. Secondly, he must observe the rules, as 
he understood them to be, of writing poetry, that is, it should 
have regularity of stress, accent and rhythm if it was to be blank 
verse, or it should be in rhyming lines if it was not, and in either 
case, should be couched in sophisticated, refined language, should 
be scholarly, should use metaphors and similies and observe 
the rules of poetics, and since he believed that the duty of poetry 
was to provide enjoyment and at the same time to teach morals, 
should do both. This accouts for the combination in his poetry 
of elaborate descriptions of different parts of the female form, 
sex, adventure, fairy tale and at the same time, of frequent 
moral sermons. 

His use of poetry as a vehicle of expression of common 

THOUGHTS 

This also explains why he did not shrink from writing in 
verse much that could as well be written in bald prose by using 
the very same words though by placing the words in a different 
order. He used poetry as a natural medium of expression of his 
thoughts as any one else would use prose. Here is an instance 
from ‘Nandikeswarf: 

“Shops have been set up on the river bank 
A variety of commodities are being sold 
There are crowds everywhere 

In the river bed, on the bank, and on the river front 

Opposite to the confluence with Kathjodi river 

Of river Bhargavi, mother of Kusabhadra and Daya 

There is Chora Ganga’s camp 

The camp was empty in the morning 

It now swarms with men” etc. 

Here is a sample taken at random from Canto IV of ‘Maha- 
jatra’ where the vices have been portrayed as human beings: 

“Pride stalks behind, his head touching the sky 
Behind him are his devotees, grim and solemn 
Their gaze is turned upwards 



70 


RADHANATH RAY 


The earth trembles under their tread 

They feel too big to waste their priceless words 

But they are only some frogs in the well of conceit 

Some of them are vain as they are rich 

Some are proud of the number of they keep servants 

Some are proud of their ancestry 

Others are vain as they are of high rank 

Yet others are proud of their fine appearance 

Others of their birth and others of their scholarship” 

etc. 


When he wanted in ‘Darabara’, to give some people a bit of 
his mind, his rage found expression in verse: 

“You hired cooks from Messrs Wilsons 
To prepare rich dinners for your guests time and again 
You loaded your guests with presents with baskets over- 
flowing 

You hired dancers for them many a time: 

You wring the necks of the unfortunate poor people, the 

destitutes”. 


Epigram: 

Having been set to verse, several of his lines have an epi- 
grammatic force and are quoted as ‘mottos’ even though the 
sense contained in them in nothing out of the ordinary. One 
instance from ‘Nandikeswari’ is: 


“A person untutored in the art of knowing what another 

feels 


Can he ever deserve the role of a master?” 

Another instance that is often quoted and was inscribed on 
his Samadhi memorial means: 

“No one has stayed for ever on the world’s stage. 

Nor shall any stay: 

Their respective roles played out, all shall be whisked off by 

Kaia” 

(meaning ‘Time’ and also ‘Death’.) 



A CRITICAL ESTIMATE 71 

He produced much and it was of a wide variety. Whatever 
he wrote was readable literature, bearing the stamp of scholar- 
ship and sincerity, and some of it was undoubtedly of a high 
quality. As a poet, he towers over his times and his writings are 
remembered with deep respect and gratitude as a land mark in 
the field of Oriya literature. 




Appendix 


1 

List of wut mgs of Radhanath Ray in Onya (ai ranged in order according to 

year of publication') 

1873 — ( 1 ) ‘Meghaduta’, a translation in verse in 1434 lines, (ii) ‘Italiya 
Juba’, translation of an English story in prose, (iii) ‘Bibeki’ a long 
essay. All were published m the magazine XJtkala Darpana 

1876 — (i) ‘Pabana’ a poem in 85 lines and (ii) ‘Words of Shivaji to his 
soldiers’ a poem in 46 lines of 8 letters each. Both published in 
Kalntabali Part 7, De’s Press, Balasore. 

1886 — (i) ‘Bern Samliara’, a poem in 528 lines of 14 letters each, (ii) 
‘Bharat Iswari’, De’s Press, Balasore, (iii) ‘Kedar GourP a Kavya 
of 106 lines of 20 letters each, De’s Press, Balasore, price 1 pice, 
(iv) ‘Chandrabhaga’, a Kavya in 270 lines of 16 letters each, De’s 
Press, price 2 pice. 

1887 — ‘NandikeswarP, a Kavya in 1074 lines of 12 letters each. Published 
in November at the expense of Raja of Bamra from the Victoria 
Press, Cuttack. 

1888 — ‘Usha% a Kavya in 832 lines of 17 letters each. Published at the 
expense of the Raja of Bamra from the Victoria Press, Cuttack. 

1890 — ‘Parbati\ a Kavya of 902 lines of 20 letters each. Serialised in the 
Raja ol Bamra’s magazine Utkal Hitaisini from 13.8.1890 to 
24.9.1890 m weekly instalments, again after five weeks, the last 
instalment having appeared on 10.12.1890. Published in book form 
by the Raja of Bamra in 1891. 

1891 — ‘Chilika’ a Kavya in 772 lines of 12 letters each, published in 
September by the Maharaja of Mayurbhanj in his magazine Utkala 
Prabha . 

1892 — An eulogy to the Maharaja of Mayurbhanj which later formed 
part of Canto V of Maharaja, published in the magazine Odisa O 
Nababharat from Balasore. 

1893 — ‘Mahajatra’, an incomplete Kavya in 2391 lines of 14 letters each 
published in the magazine Utkal Prabha from Baripada starting 
in June. Eater published in 1896 m book form at the expense of 
the Rani of Kanika. 

1894 — c Jajatikesari% a Kavya in 1116 lines of 20 letters each, published 
in part in the Utkala Prabha starting from June. Printed in full in 
the magazine Sambalpur Hitaisini pf the Raja of Bamra from 



74 


RADHANATH RAY 


26.9.1894 to 10.7.1895. (ii) ‘Tulasi Stabaka’, a translation in 200 
lines of 12 letters each. 

1895 — TJrbasi’, an incomplete poem in 190 lines of 20 letters each, pub- 
lished in a magazine. 

1897 — ‘Darabara’, a Kavya satire in 145 lines of 12 letters each, publish- 
ed in the magazine Utkala Sahitya. 

1898 — ‘Tinibandhu 9 , a poem in 74 lines published m the Utkala Sahitya . 

1901 — 'Dasaratha Biyoga’, a poem in 429 lines, published in book form. 

1904 — (i) ‘Bana Harana\ a poem in 726 lines, (ii) ‘Durjodhanara Rakta 

Nadi Santarana’, a poem in 218 lines, (iii) ‘Smasana Drushya’, a 
poem in 190 lines and (iv) s Mahendragiri\ an incomplete poem in 
318 lines. The first three were published in the magazine Utkala 
Sahitya . They have 14 letters in each line. The fourth has 12 letters 
in each line. 

1906 — ‘Sabitn Charita\ a poem in 766 lines of 14 letters each, published 
in the Utkala Sahitya. 

1907 — (i) ‘Sati Prati Satidrohi Patira Ukti\ a poem in 164 lines of 14 
letters each, (ii) ‘Nibedana’, a poem in 72 lines of 12 letters each. 

Undated Poems: (i) Sc (ii) 2 poems on Queen Victoria in 28 lines composed 
as Jubilee songs, (iii) A poem on Prataprudra Deva in 40 lines of 
12 letters each, (iv) A poem containing Vyasa’s advice to Judhis- 
thira, in 14 lines of 14 letters each, (v) Some words of advice in 
verse 24 lines of 9 letters each, (vi) ‘Fularani’, an incomplete poem 
in 100 lines of 14 letters each, (vii) 2 * * * 6 Hansaduta\ a translation in 
verse, in 64 lines of 13 letters each. 


1A 

Radhanath Ray's Writings in Bengali 

1868 — Kabitabali, Part I. 

1878—Kabitabali, Part II. 

1902 — (I) Kalidasa Suktayah. 

(2) Dekhabati. 


2 

Text books written in Oriya by Radhanath Ray 

1876 : 1. ‘Kabitabali Part I\ It contained 2 poems by Radhanath and 

the rest by Madhusudan Rao, De’s Press, Balasore. 

2. ‘Geometry Mensuration and Surveying’ in Oriya, by Radha- 
nath Ray and Siba Narayan Naijk, advertised on 11th Septem- 
ber, De’s Press, Balasore. 



APPENDIX 


75 


1877 : 1- ‘Geometry’ in Oriya by Radhanath Ray and Siba Narain 

Naik. 

2. ‘Practical Geography Part F in Oriya by Radhanath Ray and 
Siba Narain Naik. 

3. ‘Model Questions in Mental Arithmetic’ in Oriya (advertised 
1st April). 

All from De’s Press, Ralasore. 

1878 : 1. ‘Physical Geography, Part F m Oriya by Radhanath Ray and 

Shtva Narain Naik. 

2. ‘Rhugola Sara Sangraha’ by Radhanath Ray. This was print- 
ed under the name of his Head Clerk, Bhubaneswar Du tt. 
De’s Press, Balasore. 

1881 : ‘Vyakarana’, Published by the Calcutta School Book Society 

Radhanath later wrote to Meher that it has been written by 
his Head Clerk, Bhubaneswar Dutt and not by him. 

1886 : TCabitabali, Part II’. It contained two of his poems and the 

rest by Madhusudan Rao. De’s Press, Balasore. 

1899 : ‘Vyakarana Prabesha’ (advertised on 3rd May). 


3 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 

1. Radhanath Granthavali (pp. 490, 15th edition, 1968 , Cuttack Trading 
Company). 

2. Radhanath Jeevani, by Durgacharana Ray (with articles by more 
than 20 writers) (pp. 1207, royal, 1941. Published by Durgacharana 
Ray from the TJtka! Sahitya Press). 

3. Odia Sahityara Itihasa, 1803-1920, by Dr. Natabar Samantaray, 
M.A., Ph.D. (pp. 666, demy, Publishers: P. K. Dhal and L. Dhal, 
Labanya Bhavan, Bhubaneswar-2). 

4. Juga Pravartaka Srasta Radhanath by Dr. Natabar Samantaray, 
(pp. 204, demy. New Students Store, Cuttack-19). 

5. Adhunika Odia Sahityara Bhitti Bhumi by Dr. Natabar Samantaray 
(pp. 276, demy. Friends Publishers, 1964). 

6. Kavi dpi (48 letters written by Radhanath Ray to Gangadhar Meher 
reproduced, studied and edited by Dr. Debi Prasanna Pattanayak, 
M.A., Ph.D., pp. 165 royal, published by Visvabharati, Santiniketan, 
1957). 

7. Radhanath Parichiti (Articles by 14 writers, pp. 149, demy, Radha- 
nath Pathagara, Soro, 1960). 

8. Magazine ‘Dagara’ — Radhanath Bisheshanka (Articles by 26 writers 
Dagara y December 1960-January 1961). 

9. Magazine ‘Dagara’, Article on ‘Historical basis of characters in 
‘ParvatF, by Dr. K.C. Panigrahi, M.A., Ph.D., (Royal pp. 5, Dagara 
pp. 13-17, October, 1958). 



76 


RADHANATH RAY 


30. Magazine ‘Dagara’ — Article on ‘Radhanath’s contribution to Oriya 
literature’ by Dr. M. Manasmha, M.A. Ph.D , (Royal pp. 6, Dagara 
pp. 14-19* April, 1961). 

11. Articles m the ‘Jhankara’, November, 1957 at pp. 789-792 by Prof. 
Jatindra Nath Mohanty. 

12. Article in the ‘Utkala Sahitya’ of Aswin, 1369 at pp. 247-254 on 
‘Tulasi Stabaka and Radhanath by Radhamohan Gadanayak. 

13. Fakir Mohan Senapati’s ‘Autobiography’ m Fakir Mohan ‘Grantha- 
vali’ (Cuttack Students Store, 1967) 

14. ‘Odia Sahityara Itihasa’ by Dr. M. Manasmha (Royal pp. 412), 
Grantha Mandir, Cuttack, Oriya rendering of his ‘History of Oriya 
literature’, published by Sahitya Akademi. 

15. ‘Sambada Patraru Odisara Katha’ compiled by Sudhakar Patnaik 
(pp. 742, demy. Grantha Mandir, 1972). 

16. A descriptive catalogue of Oriya Mss , Vol. VI with a preface of 
pp. 153 by Nilamani Mishra, Curator, Orissa State Museum (pp. 
206, demy. Orissa State Museum, 1970). 

17. ‘Chilika O Radhanath’ by Goun Kumar Brahma, M.A. (pp. 278, 
Shanti Nivas, Bani Mandir, 1962). 

18. Complete Works of Madhusudan Rao (Grantha Mandir, 1965, 
pp. 766, demy). 

19 ‘Autobiography’ by Pandit Nilakantha Das in ‘Nxlakantha Grantha- 
vali% Volume I (Cuttack Students Stores, 1963). 

20. Volume 2 of ‘Orissa’ by W.W. Hunter (Demy pp. 219, Smith Eldb & 
Co., London, 1872)